Germany warns of possible natural gas rationing amid dispute with Russia

A gas cooker is seen in Boroughbridge, northern England.

Nigel Roddis | Reuters

Germany has declared an “early warning” that it could soon be facing a natural gas emergency as Europe’s largest economy prepares for the risk of a full supply disruption from Russia.

The Kremlin has repeatedly demanded that so-called “unfriendly” countries pay in rubles for gas, referring to those behind heavy economic sanctions designed to isolate Russia over its unprovoked onslaught in Ukraine.

The G-7, which induces Germany, has rejected that demand.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said Wednesday that the “early warning” measure was the first of three stages and does not yet imply a state intervention to ration gas supplies.

However, Habeck called for consumers and companies to reduce consumption, telling a news conference that “every kilowatt hour counts,” according to Reuters.

Germany’s supplies were safeguarded for the time being, Habeck said, before adding the government was closely monitoring supply flows with market operators.

“Nevertheless, we must increase precautionary measures to be prepared for an escalation on the part of Russia,” Habeck said, according to a translation. “With the declaration of the early warning level, a crisis team has convened.”

Klaus Mueller, the head of German network regulator Bundesnetzagentur, said via Twitter that the early warning would help Germany and the European Union to avoid the deterioration of gas supplies. Mueller called on consumers and industry leaders to prepare for “all scenarios.”

Habeck has said Germany, which imported around 55% of its gas supplies from Russia last year, would not be able to achieve full independence from Moscow before mid-2024.

The European Union, meanwhile, receives roughly 40% of its gas via Russian pipelines and several of which run through Ukraine.

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