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German announces emergency plan as Russia chokes gas supplies

Germany’s economic ministry has announced the second of three energy emergency phases, warning the country faces a high risk of long-term supply shortages due to Russia systematically choking off gas deliveries.

One of the “alarm phases” of the emergency plan enables utility firms to pass on high gas prices to customers and thereby help to lower demand.

The ministry said the reason for the warning was a reduction in Russian gas deliveries since 14 June amid continued high prices on the gas market. Should Russian gas deliveries via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline continue to remain at the low level of 40%, the ministry said in a statement, “a storage target of 90% by December cannot be reached without additional measures”.

“There’s no point pretending: the throttling of gas deliveries amounts to an economic attack on us by Putin,” said Robert Habeck, the minister for economic and energy affairs. “Putin’s strategy is blatantly to stir insecurity, to drive up prices and to drive a wedge through our society.”

“Even if it doesn’t feel like it yet: we are in a gas crisis,” he added. “From now on, gas is going to be a scarce good.”

The Green party politician said the current crisis was also a result of preceding German governments having allowed themselves to become too reliant on Russian gas and not sufficiently diversified its energy sources.

“That is now coming back to haunt us and must be rectified at great speed,” Habeck said at a press conference on Thursday morning.

Germany has been racing to fill its gas storage facilities in time for the winter, as Europe’s largest economy scrambles to wean itself off Russian energy supplies in the face of a possible European embargo or a potential decision by Moscow to completely cut off supplies.

In moves controversial with the Green party’s voter base, the German government is planning to build two new liquified natural gas terminals on the North Sea coast and restart some coal-fired power plants that were due to be phased out.

On 14 June, Gazprom announced it was reducing deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 40%, citing delayed repairs of technical parts by German company Siemens. Habeck said on Thursday that the technical reasons given were “only a pretext”.

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The economic minister had rallied German industry leaders around his emergency plans on Tuesday, warning them that large companies could face not just days but months of gas shortages in the coming winter.

“If the plan works out, the storage units will be full in winter,” he said at a meeting of German DAX companies in Berlin. “There is a certain degree of hope that we can manage this. But make no mistake, we are not there yet, the units are only at 60%.”

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