Europe’s largest economy has been criticised for its over-reliance on Russian fuel and is now feeling the effects of Vladimir Putin’s control over the supply of energy. Successive German governments have chosen to import cheaper gas from Russia instead of building the infrastructure to wean the German economy off the fuel source. An energy expert told Express.co.uk it has now been “caught out” by this decision and could face dire consequences.
In 2005, former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroder secured a deal with Vladimir Putin for the pipeline which would become known as Nord Stream 1. History repeated itself in 2021 when former Chancellor Angela Merkel called Vladimir Putin after a deal on a second pipeline, Nord Stream 2, was announced – despite protestations from eastern Europe.
At the time, the Kremlin released a statement thanking Germany for its “steadfast loyalty” regarding the project which it said would “strengthen Germany’s energy security” – it now seems that Germany’s trust in Moscow was misplaced.
Although the Nord Stream 2 project was scrapped, it took the, second, invasion of another European country – Ukraine – to kill the project.
Now, Germany is feeling the brunt of the pain surrounding Europe’s over-reliance on cheap Russian energy. Dr Dani told Express.co.uk that the country is gearing up to make some tough decisions this winter.
Already, the local government in Hanover has begun instituting energy rationing policies in public buildings and spaces.
Dr Dani said: “The news at the moment is that Germany is not going to be able to fulfil the 95 percent storage requirements for winter, by November 1, they are going to be falling short.
He added: “That’s why we see in Hannover the first requirement to start reducing the hot water and other requirements for public buildings and public places.”
Although the local governments can’t limit electricity to private homes as of yet, they will likely “stop lighting up buildings, and save electricity” anywhere they can.
Dr Dani said Germany has been “caught out” by its reliance on Russian gas and, depending on cuts to services the German Government is forced to implement, German industry and society could be headed into an extremely dark winter.
The country could even face challenges with “public unrest” as services falter.
Dr Dani added: “[These decisions are] going to affect people, at some point when it starts affecting people more, you have to worry about public unrest, and then what happens to societal norms?
“So I think we’re seeing something else being played out over the next winter months. There may be other challenges that creep up within Europe in terms of those societal challenges.”
German industry will likely be the first to be affected by gas shortages due to the concerns about social upheaval if energy was rationed to German households, according to Dr Dani.
He added: “I think, in whatever circumstance they don’t want societal unrest. If society breaks down then you’ve had it, in a sense. You can’t control anything then.”
If German industry is put on hold, it could be devastating for its economy. As the EU’s powerhouse and largest economy, the whole Eurozone could be at risk.
The issue is already causing a new north-south divide within the EU. Spain, for example has built a number of Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) terminals and depends very little on Russian gas. There are questions why Germany has not done the same.
LNG can be imported from suppliers in the Middle East as well as the United States, effectively cutting Russia out of the picture. However, the terminals take time to build so LNG is likely not a short term solution for Germany.
Still, if the country had built LNG terminals in the past, it would not be as reliant on Russian gas as it is today.
Dr Dani said: “If you’ve seen the news recently, again, there has been some discontent between the Southern European states like Spain, Italy, and Portugal [and Germany].
“That discontent [is] between these three states and Germany, perhaps France to an extent, but Germany mainly because Germany has Nord Stream 1 coming in directly from Russia.”
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As Europe scrambles to purchase LNG, Spain has the facilities to offload the gas from container ships.
Europe has voted in favour to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent to stave off a crisis and try to make it through the coming winter months.
The Russian gas giant Gazprom has reduced gas capacity in Nord Stream 1 to just 20 percent of normal supplies, it was predicted that at 40 percent capacity Germany could have scrapped by with enough gas to get through the winter.
Successive German governments have ignored their eastern neighbours and continued to increase the country’s reliance on Russian gas.
However, since the full-scale war in Ukraine, Germany has promised to reduce and then completely give up its reliance on the fuel. For now, the country will have to weather the winter at the whims of a hostile Russia.