September 24, 2022

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Netzagentur boss Klaus Müller predicted a harsh winter in Germany

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Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Network Agency, called for savings in light of a possible gas supply cutoff. ©Oliver Berg/dpa

Klaus Müller, head of the network agency, is of the opinion that industry and households need to save more. In a weekend interview he explains: “Germany needs a shock moment”.

MUNICH – Fears of gas shortages have sent stock market prices to record highs of around 250 euros per megawatt hour. At the same time the French power generation collapsed – and winter is coming. In the event of an emergency, the head of the Federal Network Agency, Klaus Mueller, will take over. In an interview Merkur.de from IPPEN.MEDIA The head of the most important authority at the moment explains whether Germany will make it through the winter – and what consumers should be prepared for now.

Mr. Müller said only 20 percent of Nord Stream 1 was used, but 80 times more liquefied natural gas (LNG) flowed through Belgian terminals. Can we get through winter?

We calculated different scenarios. With an average winter and 20 percent deliveries from Russia, all regions would need at least 20 percent storage and an additional 10 to 15 GWh of gas flow to survive the winter. It is not impossible. Besides the four floating LNG terminals chartered by the federal government, there are several private ventures. There are also good talks with France. If we can do all that, we have a chance to get through this winter and next. If we don’t do that, it will be difficult.

What about our other neighbors?

Norway, Belgium and the Netherlands have been of great help to Germany over the past few months and I strongly recommend that we also meet our European solidarity obligations. We have a European gas market in which Germany occupies a special place due to its geographical location. That is why we are very keen to advance further in this market.

What if Russia stops supplying gas?

Beyond already challenging assumptions, additional storage or gas flows must be implemented – both of which can be very difficult. Or Peter to come to our rescue in a very mild winter. However, as we also have to think about the winter of 2023/2024, closing storage too deeply will not do us any good.

Gas crisis: LNG trade heads to Europe and Germany

European gas prices have increased tenfold even for the future – but is there enough LNG on the global market?

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We are watching International LNG trade has taken a completely different direction. For years, the ships went primarily to Asia. Due to prices, deliveries now go to Europe and Germany. If we look three to four years into the future, we see countless attempts to export more LNG in the US and Canada. To be honest, it has a lot of gas. And new sources are being heard in Africa and the Arab world. But this is still a question of many years. But now we have to see what we can get in the next 24 months.

In July alone, German gas-fired power plants converted four billion kilowatt hours of gas into electricity, the annual demand of 200,000 four-person households. Shouldn’t we stop this?

To keep the grids stable, a certain amount of electricity must be produced from gas, and some generate thermal energy for residential buildings, so it is particularly protected. Anything beyond that is a sore point, but it can be explained: France has passed Deficiencies in its nuclear power plants Significant power supply issues. This is why the prices paid there are so high that German power plants find it profitable to generate electricity with gas, despite the horrendous costs. It’s perfect from the neighborhood’s point of view – but not a good development when it comes to gas supply. Therefore, coal-fired power plants need to be reconnected to the grid. Ordinances are issued gradually and material is stockpiled so that the power plants are ready for use. This has already happened with hard coal and will follow with lignite in the fall.

Klaus Müller
Federal Network Agency boss Klaus Müller warns: More energy needs to be saved. © Mohsen Assanimoghaddam/dpa

Energy crisis: “There are companies that understand this is an act of solidarity”

Next to Unibar Some other companies, such as OMV, have applied to be included in the tax instead of Russian gas supplies. Does that mean higher allocation costs in January?

There are fixed dates by which companies submit their applications, which means we know how much gas has failed in total. We don’t know how replacement prices will evolve. Recalculated every three or six months depends on whether the contribution is decreasing or increasing.

Corporations like Austria’s OMV are making a lot of money from the energy crisis, doubling their profits in the first half of the year. How to prevent payers from financing corporate profits?

The levy order was intended to prevent Uniper from going bankrupt, as that would have wiped out hundreds of municipal utilities and their customers. However, a rule for Uniper alone is not possible under the principle of equal treatment, which is why all companies whose deliveries have failed have a legal claim. There are companies that understand that waiving the levy without their need is an act of solidarity – and that can be a model for others.

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However, in the future, we should expect gas customers to finance the group’s profits through current taxation – as a solvent company can meet its supply obligations. Is that fair?

The question of justice is a political debate, and the Federal Network Agency has no mandate.

A washcloth instead of a shower head. Winfried Kretschmann advises to do without – and is ridiculed by the left.

Gas crisis: Heating with electricity is inefficient and more expensive than gas

Back to electricity: Experts warn of power outages due to high sales of fan heaters.

Heating with electricity is many times more inefficient and therefore still more expensive than gas. That’s why the purchases can only be explained by concerns about running out of gas in the winter. However, families are especially protected – I am confident that they will be able to take care of themselves this winter and next. If the fan heaters are not connected to the mains, they will not cause any problems.

France hopes to get its power plants back online for winter – what about the rest of the world?

Of course, the situation can only be viewed in European terms. A second stress test will show where we stand, the results of which are expected in a few weeks.

Like consumer advocates, households anticipate dire additional costs: Where is the line between a price signal and a threat to existence?

There are people who are angry at the price but can deal with it. But we write every day People who can no longer afford the expenses. The VAT cut is a first step and the central government has announced further targeted measures to be decided in the next few weeks.

About IPPEN.MEDIA

That IPPEN.MEDIA-Netzwerk is one of Germany’s largest online publishers. Journalists from our central editorial office in Berlin, Hamburg/Bremen, Munich, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart and Vienna investigate and publish more than 50 stories. These include brands such as Merkur.de, FR.de and BuzzFeed Germany. Our news, interviews, analysis and opinions reach more than 5 million people in Germany every day.

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Energy crisis: “Already the price signal is very strong and severe.”

Economists criticize the VAT reduction as paradoxical: First the government makes it more expensive, then it becomes cheaper. How can we encourage people to save without overburdening them?

The price signal already coming is very strong and hard hitting many people’s mailboxes in the next few weeks. We are now seeing significant savings in industry – we just have to wait and see for the heating season in private homes. The cut in value-added tax is only a first step: the central government is clear that the third relief package will be precisely targeted at the needy.

In terms of price signals: exchanges are paying more than 20 cents for gas and more than 50 cents for electricity – will consumer prices catch up?

It depends on the contractual constellation of suppliers and their market power – another reason why Uniper has been saved is because it has many smaller customers. Replacement prices are offset by other price components, but many customers are already feeling the tripling of gas prices — and I can’t rule out the possibility of more.

They also warned of the coming two winters. What is your prediction for the next few years?

When it comes to prices, you can look into a crystal ball. We may see more supply being created globally, but no one can say how this will affect prices. But what we are calculating is how much we are using our storage this winter. Emptying the stores entirely next spring would certainly be too short-sighted. We also have to get through the 2023/2024 winter. Robert Habeck thinks we can be independent of Russian gas by the summer of 2024 – that’s the goal for now.

Do you share Habeck’s vision?

I think it depends on us, it depends on whether Germany feels the moment of shock. I see the construction of the first two LNG terminals in Brunsbüttel and Wilhelmshaven, we see energy companies and authorities doing everything to improve our supply, we see savings initiatives in industry and companies. There is a huge demand for advice on energy saving in private households. It gives me hope that we are not powerless – but everyone must participate.