German consumers could face a tripling of gas prices in the coming months after Russia’s throttling of deliveries to Europe, a senior energy official has said.
Moscow reduced the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 40% last week, citing technical reasons that Berlin dismisses as a pretext, prompting a four to six-fold rise in market prices, said the head of Germany’s federal network agency, Klaus Müller.
Such “enormous leaps in price” were unlikely to be passed down to consumers one-for-one, Müller said, but German citizens had to brace themselves for dramatically rising costs. “A doubling or tripling is possible, depending on the building shell,” he told the public broadcaster ARD.
The rising costs currently showing up on people’s energy bills were still the result of higher prices on the gas market last autumn, he said.
Müller’s comments came after the German economic ministry announced the second of three energy emergency plan phases on Thursday, warning of a high risk of long-term supply shortages as a result of Russia systematically choking off gas deliveries.
The so-called “alarm phase” enables utility firms to pass on high gas prices to customers and thereby help to lower demand.
Robert Habeck, the minister for economic affairs, said there was some concern that there would be a complete stop to Russian gas deliveries after 13 July, when the Nord Stream 1 has to be closed down for ten days for an annual inspection.
Asked by the RTL Nachtjournal programme if he was worried that Putin might not switch the gas tap on again after the scheduled interruption, Habeck said: “I would be lying if I said that isn’t something I worry about.”
Müller said Europe’s economic powerhouse could go for just over two months without Russian gas supplies.
“If the storage facilities in Germany were mathematically 100% full … we could do without Russian gas completely … for just about two-and-a-half months and then the storage tanks will be empty,” he told the Maybrit Illner programme on Thursday evening.
To prepare for the supply crunch Germany needed to save gas and rapidly diversify its suppliers, he said.
“Most of the scenarios are not pretty and mean either too little gas by the end of the winter, or even – and that’s a very tricky situation – in the autumn or winter.”