Germany Appeals to Save Gas After Russia Tightens Flows

Germany’s economy minister, Robert Habeck, has made an urgent appeal to Germans and German companies to conserve natural gas following two days of tighter restrictions by Gazprom, the Russian energy giant, on gas flows into the country.

“The time to do this has arrived. Every kilowatt-hour helps in this situation,” Mr. Habeck said in a public appeal posted to Instagram late Wednesday. He said the situation was serious, but insisted that supplies to Europe’s largest economy were assured.

Gazprom said on Wednesday that it would curtail natural gas supplies through a key pipeline to Germany by 60 percent, a day after announcing a 40 percent reduction. Gazprom said the cuts were necessary because a turbine for a compressor station in northwestern Russia was sent for repairs and hadn’t returned in time.

But Mr. Habeck said the turbine issue was just a pretext for an effort by Vladimir V. Putin, Russia’s president, to drive up the price of natural gas in Europe. Gas prices have jumped about 35 percent this week, reaching 131 euros a megawatt-hour on the TTF exchange Thursday.

“Yesterday we received notice that further amounts of gas were being reduced,” Mr. Habeck told Germans in the video, which had been viewed more than 141,000 times by midday Thursday. “That confirms what we have feared from the start: Putin is reducing the amount of gas. Not all in one go, but step by step.”

He pointed out similar behavior by Russia in recent months, pointing to Gazprom cutting off gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria and Denmark.

At the same time, he insisted that Germany was in a position to continue filling its gas reserves in preparation for winter. Storage levels have run chronically low in recent years, in part because Gazprom allowed them to dip in several important natural gas tanks that it owned in Germany.

The government passed a law earlier this year requiring owners of natural gas storage facilities to ensure they were 65 percent full by August each year, and 80 percent full by October, when the heating season starts.

Germany’s federal agency responsible for gas, electricity and telecommunications said on Wednesday that storage levels at German facilities are at 55 percent.

“Gas is reaching Germany,” Mr. Habeck said. “We do not have a problem with supply, but the amounts need to be bought on the open market and it will be more expensive.”

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