The Germans said they were saving energy as Russia cuts gas flows to Europe

The German government has called for citizens of the EU’s largest economy to conserve energy as Russia cuts gas supplies to more and more European countries.

German Deputy Chancellor Robert Habeck said the situation was “serious” and that “now is the time” for companies and ordinary citizens to save energy and store gas. “Every kilowatt hour helps in this situation,” he told him in a video appeal posted on Twitter Thursday.

Russian state-controlled gas exporter Gazprom has cut flows through the Nord Stream pipeline, which runs under the Baltic Sea to Germany, by 60% in recent days, citing technical problems. But Germany has said the move is political, amid mounting tensions between Moscow and the West over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Thursday, Germany’s largest power company, RWE, reported a reduction in gas flows. Italian supplies were cut by 15% on Wednesday and Italian energy company Eni said the shortage worsened on Thursday, while Slovakia reported a 30% reduction in flows. Meanwhile, the Austrian energy company OMV said it was informed by Gazprom that delivery volumes would be reduced.

The Russian supply brake came when leaders from Germany, Italy and France visited Kiev on Thursday in a demonstration of support for the Ukrainian government nearly four months into the war.

EU politicians accused Russia of effectively arming its role as one of the world’s largest oil and gas producers, while European sanctions following the invasion raised fears of further retaliatory cuts by Russia.

Gas prices in Europe, already close to record highs, rose more than 70% this week in response to the latest supply restrictions, reaching 146 euros per megawatt hour on Wednesday, a nearly 30% increase over the day.

Gazprom blamed the reduction in gas flows to Germany due to technical problems with the Nord Stream pipeline after pumping equipment, supplied by Germany’s Siemens Energy, was blocked by Canadian sanctions following repairs at the Montreal plant. Only about 67 million cubic meters of gas are now pumped through the Nord Stream, 40% of its technical capacity.

Russian envoy to the EU, Vladimir Chizhov, warned Thursday that further problems with repairs could lead to the complete closure of the pipeline, with devastating consequences for Germany.

“Siemens should be asked why they had to send the turbines to Canada for repairs,” Chizhov told Ria Novosti news agency. “When all those turbines go to Canada for maintenance, it could stop. I think it will be a catastrophe for Germany. “

Gazprom president Alexei Miller said Thursday that “there was no solution” to the problem with Nord Stream’s turbines as the Canadian plant is the only one capable of repairing Siemens Energy turbines.

Canada said it could not return the turbines because it was the only country that had introduced sanctions against Gazprom, he added.

Most of its other turbines were in the process of requiring maintenance, “but we can’t send them to Canada,” Miller said, speaking at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. He added that Siemens Energy was trying to find a solution to the problem.

Miller said rising gas prices offset the blow of a double-digit drop in Gazprom’s exports to Europe and Turkey. “Prices have gone up. . . several times. So I’m sorry, but if I said we’re not mad at anyone, I wouldn’t be lying. ”

Habeck said Berlin was aware that Canadian sanctions could affect the maintenance schedules of Nord Stream’s compressor stations, but that this would likely only become a problem in the fall.

The technical reasons given by Gazprom were only a “pretext” and the cutting of the flows was a “political action”, he added. “[Russian president Vladimir] Putin is doing what we always feared he would do from the start. He is reducing the volume of the gas, not in one fell swoop, but gradually. ”

Sergiy Makogon, chief executive of Ukraine’s state gas transportation network, said Thursday: “The Kremlin [has] has decided to continue the EU escalation and blackmail “.

Russia could compensate for the lower volumes passing through Nord Stream by increasing gas supplies through Ukraine and Poland, he said, but “they have not [the] will “to do so.

Meanwhile, Eni said in a statement that Gazprom’s gas delivery deficit has worsened. The company said it requested additional supplies to be delivered Thursday to make up for the previous day’s cut. But Gazprom said it will deliver only 65% ​​of Eni’s request, or about 32 million cubic meters, far below the quantity needed to recover the lost volumes.

Eni said Gazprom blamed the lack of problems at its Portovaya plant, which feeds the Nord Stream.

In Austria, which imports around 80% of its gas from Russia, OMV said that despite reduced flows, demand could be met using existing stores and supplies from the spot market, thanks to reduced consumption during the current heat wave. “The supply of our customers is assured,” the company added.

However, analysts warned that while immediate gas supplies can be met, filling storage before the peak of winter demand would be much more difficult if Russian supplies continued to decline.

Additional reports by Amy Kazmin in Rome, Sam Jones in Zurich, Joe Miller in Frankfurt and Andy Bounds in Brussels