Without Russian gas, Germany fears a cold winter | War in Ukraine

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Without Russian gas, Germany fears a cold winter | War in Ukraine

Highly dependent on gas from Russia, Germany is stepping up efforts to accumulate energy reserves that can be used during the coldest months of the year.

Since the summer, the Victory Column is no longer lit in Berlin.

BERLIN – The darker the night falls, the more difficult it is to discern the shape of the Victory Column, this large statue that sits in the center of Tiergarten, the huge park in the heart of Berlin.

Since this summer, the structure is no longer lit. Similar scenario for the Berlin Cathedral and other buildings in the German capital, which are plunged into darkness once night sets in.

With rising energy prices, the Berlin authorities are citing economic reasons in particular to justify their decision. But this policy, adopted in August, aims above all to limit consumption in the metropolis now, in order to avoid an energy shortage this winter.

The capital is not not the only city to have adopted such a plan. In Hannover, just under 300 kilometers west of Berlin, swimming pools are no longer gas-heated and bathers must take a cold shower after their lengths.

The swimming pools in the city of Hanover are no longer heated with gas and the showers are now cold.

It's not that bad, says a resident met at the exit of a swimming pool.

The goal is to save 15% of energy production during the hottest months of the year to be able to use them when temperatures drop.

“It's really important to fill our gas reserves as much as possible so that we can get through the winter and get to the spring.

— Lars Baumann, Deputy Mayor of Hannover

The city's deputy mayor, Lars Baumann, says that given the dips in gas supplies coming from Russia, its administration does not want to take any risks.

Sometimes it's windy for two weeks and temperatures drop below minus five degrees. We could have problems, he explains, justifying all the savings imposed by the City, which has also reduced the lighting of public buildings and closed the water fountains.

< p class="sc-v64krj-0 knjbxw">Hannover Deputy Mayor Lars Baumann explains that the city is trying to save 15% energy to cope with the coldest months of the year.

At the start of the war in Ukraine, 55% of German gas came from Russia, a proportion which fell to 35% at the beginning of the summer.

Benjamin Beuerle, researcher at the Marc Bloch center, emphasizes that for decades Moscow has been a partner of choice for Berlin in terms of energy supply.

It's been done for half a century, since the early 1970s. Energy relations have developed between West Germany and the Soviet Union, explains the expert . According to him, through this partnership, the Germans sought to secure long-term energy resources, while the Soviets wanted to develop their energy networks and obtain capital.

Benjamin Beuerle is a researcher at the Marc Bloch Center in Berlin.

These economic ties continued after the fall of the Soviet Union and the eventual rise to power of Vladimir Putin.

Benjamin Beuerle assures that the various German governments have ignored the warnings of their Eastern European neighbors who said that we must be careful, that it is a means of blackmail. In his view, Russian gas supplies enabled Berlin to pursue its energy and environmental policy goals.

“The idea was that gas coming mainly from Russia could be the transition energy for the period when renewable energies would not be sufficiently developed or unable to fill the energy gap left by nuclear or coal. »

— Benjamin Beuerle, researcher at the Marc Bloch Center

The war in Ukraine completely upset this strategy.

The gas pipeline Nord Stream 1, connecting Russia to Germany, first saw its capacity reduced to 20% supply, before being simply suspended indefinitely at the end of August.

Two young women light up with their cell phones in front of the Berlin Cathedral, whose lights are now almost all extinguished in the evening.

To make up for this shortfall, Berlin is trying to diversify its energy sources, as shown by Chancellor Olaf Scholz's recent trip to Canada. At the same time, the country's various levels of government are stepping up efforts to increase energy reserves.

According to the latest available information, these reserves have reached nearly 90% of their capacity.

The impacts of the energy crisis are now part of everyday life in Germany.

In Berlin, the owner of a hardware store, for example, explains to us that he is running out of space heaters powered by electricity, which is a good alternative to the gas heating very common in German residences.

Berlin hardware store owner Frank Döring shows some space heaters that are on sale. The most efficient devices have all already flown away.

Also in the capital, a representative of an organization providing advice to Berliners on how to reduce their energy consumption, and therefore their bills, claims to be very busy.

Deputy Mayor of Hanover, Lars Baumann, ensures that, as a general rule, the population, having to deal with the energy crisis itself, understands the measures adopted by the cities. However, he is aware that this support could erode over time.

“It will be different during the winter. If you step out of the pool and the shower temperature is very cold, it may affect you. […] I expect more criticism from people who will say that we cannot act like this as a city.

— Lars Baumann, Deputy Mayor of Hannover

Already some of this criticism is being heard.

In Hannover, the owner of a perfumery explains to us that as an entrepreneur she obviously tries to lower her energy costs, but that she does not want to be imposed measures by the administration, such as a reduction the lighting of its windows.

Carolin Henzler, owner of a perfumery in Hanover, understands the need to save energy, but fears that some measures go too far.

In Berlin, a young resident, whose the spouse will give birth in the middle of winter, replies that it is out of the question for him to ration gas heating at home.

Because our government has imposed sanctions [on the Russia], we have to pay?, he says.

Moreover, protest movements against Berlin's energy strategy, supported in particular by far-left and far-right political parties, are beginning to make themselves heard.

For help the population to face the coming months, the ruling coalition in Berlin has announced a new aid package of 65 million euros.

Will this be enough maintain the support of the population in this period of energy austerity?

Researcher Benjamin Beuerle assures that it is in Putin's strategy or thought to play a game against Europe, bearing in mind that energy issues can create social tensions and generate difficulties for governments in Germany.

Whether or not this Kremlin strategy will work , the researcher offers this answer: It obviously depends on the governments in Europe and a lot on each one of us.

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