German government approves 2% gas savings plan

Faced with possible gas shortages as supplies from Russia dwindle, the German government has agreed on a gas-saving plan to cut gas use by around 2% by reducing heating in public buildings and shutting off the lights at night.

Although Germany’s gas stores are around 80% full, worrying signs, such as an upcoming three-day shutdown of the Baltic pipeline Nord Stream 1, signal that Germany needs significant gas demand reduction to make it through winter without a gas shortage.

“It is also essential to save significantly more gas: in public administration, in companies, in as many private households as possible,” said Robert Habeck, minister of economy and climate action, on Wednesday (24 August).

“The ordinances adopted by the Cabinet today make an important contribution to this,” he added. The German government coalition adopted a set of short-term and medium-term measures.

Habeck told reporters that the measures amounted to around 2 to 2.5% gas savings. Germany is obligated to save around 15% as per EU rules, although the government estimates that 20% of gas use must be cut to make it through the coming winter without a gas shortage.

The short-term measures are set to come into effect on 1 September and set to last for 6 months, while the two-year long medium-term ones require the assent of the parliament’s upper chamber, the Bundesrat, and are planned for 1 October.

Cold water for public officials

These measures will be felt. Water taps in public buildings will dispense cold water, going forward. Public offices may only be heated to 19 °C instead of the usual 20, while hallways and foyers won’t be heated at all. Private offices will have a minimum temperature of 19 °C as well; acting on the relaxed rule is up to businesses.

The outside illumination of public buildings and monuments will be shut down, with private businesses’ neon signs shut off from 10pm to 6am. German cities will be rather gloomy this fall. In winter, businesses must keep their door closed to avoid the warm air escaping.

Renters will no longer be obliged to uphold contractual minimum temperatures in the flat in winter, giving them some leeway, the German government said. Private swimming pools may no longer be heated, although it is unlikely that this rule will be actively enforced or policed at all.

Gas wholesalers and owners of larger residential buildings will be obliged to inform their customers and tenants about their expected energy consumption, the associated costs and possible savings potential by the beginning of the coming heating season.

Business associations welcomed the measures.

”The DMB considers the regulations and the accompanying measures for SMEs and also for all other sectors of society to be right in principle,” said Marc Tenbieg, CEO of Germany’s SMU association, in emailed comments.


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