Germany, like a number of other European countries, is highly dependent on Russian energy imports to meet its needs
Germany moved closer to rationing natural gas on Thursday as it raised the alert level under an emergency plan after Russia cut supplies to the country.
“Gas is now a scarce commodity in Germany,” Economics Minister Robert Habeck told reporters at a news conference.
But the Kremlin dismissed Germany’s suggestion that there were political motives behind the supply restrictions as “strange”.
Activating the “alarm” level – the second of three steps under the emergency plan – brings Germany one step closer to the final stage where gas rationing could take place in Europe’s top economy.
“If we don’t act now, it will get worse,” Habeck said.
Russian energy giant Gazprom cut deliveries to Germany through the Nord Stream pipeline by 60 percent last week, blaming the new limits on delayed repairs.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday there was “no double meaning” in the delivery decision.
“It’s strange to call it political.”
Gas supply to Europe’s largest economy was “secure,” Habeck said, but action was still needed to prepare for the coming winter.
Currently, the country’s stores are just under 60 percent full, above the average level of previous years.
France will also build a new floating terminal to receive more liquefied natural gas (LNG) by ship, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced.
“We can do without Russian gas,” French Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher later told BFM Business TV.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), meanwhile, said it would lend 300 million euros to Moldova for gas purchases.
The German government expects the supply to stop between July 11 and 25 for annual maintenance on the Nord Stream pipeline.
Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, Germany has managed to reduce the share of its natural gas supplied by Russia from 55 percent to about 35 percent.
Germany also decided to reactivate shut down coal-fired power plants to meet the gas power generation burden.
Extending use of the last reactors to be taken off the grid by the end of the year was “not an option,” it said Wednesday.
Households can “make a difference” by saving energy, after Germany launched a campaign to encourage fuel-saving measures, he said, while the industry could also make a further contribution.