Germany activated the second phase of its three-stage emergency plan for natural gas supplies Thursday, warning that Europe’s biggest economy faces a “crisis” and that storage targets for the winter are at risk. The government said the decision follows cuts Russia made to natural gas flows starting last week and surging energy prices stoked by the war in Ukraine, per the AP. Industrial customers are being asked to reduce the amount of natural gas they use, and Germany and other countries are turning back to coal as a replacement, threatening climate goals in Europe as energy tensions escalate between Russia and the West. “Even if we can’t feel it yet, we are in a gas crisis,” said Robert Habeck, Germany’s economy and climate minister.
Russia last week reduced natural gas to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, just as European Union countries are scrambling to refill storage of the fuel used to generate electricity, power industry, and heat homes in the winter. Russia’s state-owned energy giant Gazprom blamed a missing part sent to Canada for repairs as it cut flows by 60% through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline running under the Baltic Sea to Germany—Europe’s major natural-gas pipeline. Other countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, also have launched first-stage warnings about supplies and urged people to conserve.
“We are in an economic conflict with Russia,” said Habeck, accusing Moscow of trying to destroy European unity and the solidarity it has shown with Ukraine. The cutbacks come on top of gas shutoffs to Poland, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, and the Netherlands in recent weeks. Germany’s government said current gas demands are being met and its storage facilities are filled to 58% capacity—higher than at this time last year. But the goal of reaching 90% by December won’t be possible without further measures, it said.
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