In response to a drop in Russian supplies, Germany activated the ‘alarm stage’ of its emergency gas plan on Thursday, but stopped short of allowing utilities to pass on rising energy costs to customers in Europe’s largest economy.
The move is the latest escalation in Europe’s standoff with Moscow following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which exposed the EU’s reliance on Russian gas supplies and prompted a frantic search for alternative energy sources.
The decision, announced by Germany’s economy minister, represents a significant shift, particularly for Europe’s largest economy, which has maintained strong energy ties with Moscow since the Cold War.
When the government sees a high risk of long-term gas supply shortages, it activates the Phase 2 ‘alarm stage’ of a three-stage emergency plan, which theoretically allows utilities to pass on high prices to industry and households, lowering demand.
Faced with dwindling gas flows from its main supplier Russia, Germany has been in Phase 1 of its emergency plan since the end of March, which includes stricter monitoring of daily flows and a focus on filling gas storage facilities.
A transition to the next phase has been rumoured since Russian supplier Gazprom reduced flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to 40% capacity last week, blaming a delay in the return of serviced equipment due to sanctions.