How Germany is trying to conserve energy in a bid to combat price rises

Germany's heavy dependence on Russian gas and oil for its energy supplies hasn't just pushed up prices there. It has put Germany at risk of running short this winter, as it scrambles to switch to alternatives. James Mates reports

Words By Foreign Producer Natasha Tierney

Lights out on monuments and public buildings, shop doors closed to save heat, advertising billboards switched off at night and a ban on heating private swimming pools - those are just a few of the latest measures introduced by the German government today in a bid to conserve energy as winter approaches.

Like the rest of Europe, Germany is grappling with an energy crisis. Its reliance on Russian gas means it has been hit hard by the war in Ukraine and resulting disruptions to the under-sea pipelines.

Gas supplies from Russia have been down to 20 percent of their usual levels, and were halted completely this week after unexpected maintenance on the Nordstream 1 pipeline.

In response, the German government has introduced a raft of new measures to ensure sufficient energy supplies for the winter, and to minimise spiralling price rises.

These include a controversial return to coal and oil powered energy plants and a campaign to encourage consumers to cut down on usage, but longer term the focus is on investing in renewable energy sources.

"Of course what is happening is a crisis. But crises often have two edges to the sword," says Dr Miranda Schreuers, a professor of Climate Policy at the Technical University of Munich.

"On the one hand, we're turning back on the coal-fired powered plants that were turned off in 2019 and 2020 to meet greenhouse gas emission targets.

"On the other hand, we're seeing the biggest push on energy saving and the development of renewable energy since the Second World War. "We are going to hopefully have a return to a reduction on greenhouse gas emissions, but it's likely to spike in the next two years."

The message from the major utility provider for the city of Munich is clear - cutting back on energy use is the only short-term solution to Germany getting through the winters ahead.

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"We've already reduced energy consumption by 15% year-on-year, but we need to reduce it by another 15 to 20 percent to be able to get through this winter to come and the following one, our models say. The second winter may be even harder than the first winter in this crisis," warns Dr Thomas Meerpohl from Stadwerke Munchen.

For many, though, those measures are welcome. Sabine Stadtherr runs a small furniture business in Munich, and has already implemented most of the rules in her shop.

"This is something that we should have done a long time ago, to think about how we can be saving energy. Now we are being forced to do that.

"Yes it might get a bit colder, but I think we can all do quite a few things to reduce energy - we are a strong country, so we will see through the winter."