Germany fears that Russian gas cuts to the country could become permanent, as the Nord Stream 1 pipeline closes temporarily for maintenance, the BBC reported on Monday.
Russian natural gas supplies to Germany via the Baltic Sea pipeline – Nord Stream 1 – have been cut for 10 days as the pipeline undergoes annual maintenance work.
But German Economy Minister Robert Habeck reportedly warned that EU countries had to be prepared in case gas shipments did not resume and has accused the Kremlin of using gas “as a weapon” in response to EU sanctions over the war in Ukraine.
Habeck reportedly said that Germany has become too dependent on Russian gas, saying it was “a grave political mistake” that the country is trying to “remedy as quickly as possible.”
In mid-June Russian state gas firm Gazprom already reduced gas flows through the pipeline to just 40 percent of its capacity, citing a delay in the return of equipment being serviced by Siemens Energy.
If Russian supplies were suddenly cut overnight, Germany could fall into a major recession, because entire industries rely on gas and most German homes use it for heating, the report said.
“If Nord Stream 1 doesn’t come back on at all, let’ s say by early August, we think that the German government will have to raise its gas alert level to the third level, which is the maximum level,” energy market analyst, Henning Gloystein of Eurasia Group told the BBC.
“That would be suspending the wholesale gas market and the government and regulator stepping in as the distributor of natural gas. So that will effectively mean rationing next winter. What happens in Germany, sadly, will spread over to the rest of Europe if it gets bad, because of the geographical location in the middle of the EU,” he added.
German households and key services such as hospitals would be prioritized for gas supplies under a government emergency plan, according to the BBC.
Germany has reportedly reduced its dependence on gas from Russia from 55 percent to 35 percent since its invasion of Ukraine which began in February, the BBC said.
The country is now getting more natural gas from Norway and the Netherlands who supplied the country with nearly half of its supply last year, according to the BBC.
The pipeline shutdown is also affecting Italy. Energy group Eni said it would receive about a third less gas from Russia's Gazprom on Monday compared with supplies over the past few days, the BBC said.
The head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, has also warned that Russia could cut off gas supplies to Europe entirely and that the continent needs to prepare now, the British broadcaster reported.
Russia has already cut gas supplies to Poland, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Finland over their refusal to comply with a new payment scheme.
Austria and the Czech Republic get some gas from Nord Stream 1, but Russian gas also travels to them via a Ukraine pipeline.