Germany’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck has announced that the German government’s fears of major natural gas shortages over the winter are easing.
The relief comes as the country’s gas storage facilities are filling up faster than expected.
The news provides some hope amid fears of chronic shortages this winter due to a reduction in supplies from Russia.
“The reservoirs are filling up faster than specified,” Habeck told Der Spiegel magazine on Sunday.
Habeck added that the government expects it could reach its target of 85 percent capacity by September, a month earlier than the original goal of October.
Storage must be at 85 percent capacity by October 1 and 95 percent capacity by November 1 to survive the winter, according to a government regulation introduced a month prior.
Overall storage was at 81.28 percent capacity as of Friday, according to the Federal Network Agency’s latest report.
Storage at the Rehden facility in northern Germany, one of the largest pore storage facilities in Western Europe, was at 63.41 percent.
Elsewhere, flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline connecting Russia and Germany were at about 20 percent of maximum capacity, according to the report.
Russian gas giant Gazprom is planning to shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for three days of maintenance at the end of August.
Last week, the head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Mueller, warned on Twitter that the impromptu maintenance could “temporarily dampen” storage efforts.
Earlier in August, Mueller told German news outlets that he didn’t expect the country to achieve its November target as quickly as it hit the September target of 75 percent.
“In all our scenarios, we will miss an average filling level of 95 percent from Nov. 1,” he said.
“We will barely be able to do that because individual storage systems have started from a very low level.”
However, according to Habeck, companies will be able to “withdraw gas from the storage facilities as planned over the winter to also supply industry and households.”
Habeck’s comments come after the country’s central bank chief Joachim Nagel warned that inflation could surge to over 10 percent in the autumn due to an energy squeeze prompted by Russia’s tightening of gas supplies.
Germany, which is highly dependent on Russian gas, has been working to wean itself off fuel from the country in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Germany is looking for alternative sources of gas to stave off acute shortages during the cold winter months and has restarted coal power plants that had been decommissioned.
In 2021, Russian gas accounted for about 55 percent of Germany’s total consumption, but in August 2022 just 9.5 percent of that consumption came from Russia, according to the BDEW German power industry association.
Germany is currently in phase 2 of a three-stage emergency plan aimed at safeguarding against shortages, the final stage of which would involve rationing gas supplies throughout the country, but this has not yet been triggered.
Meanwhile, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is also expected to flow to Germany through France once the two countries resolve organizational and technical issues.
“The situation is tense and a further worsening of the situation cannot be ruled out,” the Federal Network Agency wrote in its latest report.
“The gas supply in Germany is, however, currently stable.
“At present, the security of supply in Germany continues to be safeguarded.”