Cities in Germany are imposing restrictions on energy usage, as the country faces the looming prospect of Russia shutting off gas supplies to the country and creating an energy crisis.
Russia has severely restricted supplies of gas to Germany in recent weeks, and there are fears Vladimir Putin will shut off supplies completely as he seeks to drive a wedge between EU nations. Germany is much more heavily-dependent on Russian gas than its EU counterparts, and member states have struggled to reach agreement on how to respond to the threat.
Hanover in the north-west of the country became the first major city to announce energy-saving measures, placing restrictions on energy use in municipal buildings, including restrictions on heating and even turning off the hot water in the showers of city-run leisure centers.
“The situation is unpredictable,” said Hanover mayor Belit Onay. “Every kilowatt hour counts, and protecting critical infrastructure has to be a priority.”
In the capital Berlin, historic monuments went dark as the city turned off the spotlights that usually drench them in light.
“In the face of the war against Ukraine and Russia’s energy threats it is vital that we handle our energy as carefully as possible,” said Berlin’s senator for the environment, Bettina Jarasch.
The majority of the gas Germany imports is used to heat homes and power its industrial sector. Plans have already been put in place to reduce industrial consumption, but reducing consumer usage is more difficult and depends on individual co-operation.
The German government plans to implement price increases to discourage consumer usage, but with most households paying their bills in advance it will take time for this to have any effect.
Germany aims to reduce national gas consumption by 15%, a level it says would leave it capable of coping with any potential Russian shut-off.