Germany’s ‘Social Peace Is in Great Danger’ as Gas Use Rationed Amid Energy Squeeze: Experts

By Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts
Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.
July 11, 2022 Updated: July 11, 2022

Experts have warned that “social peace is in great danger” in Germany as the country has turned to rationing hot water, dimming its street lights, and shutting down swimming pools amid a nationwide energy crunch.

According to local reports, Vonovia, the country’s largest residential landlord, announced on Thursday that it would be lowering the temperature of its tenants’ gas central heating to 17 degrees C between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. in an attempt to save 8 percent in heating costs.

Vonovia said the change will not impact temperatures during the daytime and access to hot water also won’t be affected.

The move is aimed at saving energy and gas use during the current crisis in Germany stemming from Russia’s decision last month to drastically reduce supplies to the country.

The country has also vowed to reduce its dependence on Russian energy owing to its invasion of Ukraine.

Germany’s government responded by triggering the “alert level” of its three-level gas emergency plan aimed at safeguarding against shortages, while officials have said the situation with natural gas in the country is “tense” and warned it could worsen further.

Berlin has said gas storage at facilities across the country is currently just over 60 percent and is “now in some cases significantly higher than in 2015, 2017, 2018, and 2021” (pdf).

However, the flow of gas from the Nord Stream 1 pipeline, which serves as the main means of transporting natural gas to Germany from Russia, has been reduced to about 40 percent of its maximum capacity.

‘The Situation Is More Than Dramatic’

As a result, gas prices in the nation have soared, and the country’s Economy Minister Robert Habeck last month warned that rationing in the future couldn’t be ruled out.

“The situation is more than dramatic,” Axel Gedaschko, head of the federation of German housing enterprises GdW, told The Financial Times. “Germany’s social peace is in great danger.”

Along with Vonovia, the Dippoldiswalde cooperative, a housing association in the Saxon town of Dippoldiswalde near the Czech border, last week began rationing its supply of hot water to tenants, according to local reports.

Hot water will no longer be available to the roughly 600 tenants during certain times, although warm water will flow between the hours of 4 a.m. and 8 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Gedaschko told German newspaper Bild: “When it comes to saving energy, both the landlord side is asked to set the heating systems to save energy, and the tenant side to behave in an energy-saving manner in the apartment.”

Elsewhere, Hamburg’s environment senator has warned that hot water may be rationed for private households in the city to offset the gas shortages, while the Federal Network Agency, also known as Bundesnetzagentur, has also been calling for a change in the legal minimum temperatures for tenants ahead of winter.

Speaking to the Rheinische Post in June, Klaus Müller, the president of Bundesnetzagentur stated: “In tenancy law, there are specifications according to which the landlord must set the heating system so that a minimum temperature of between 20C and 22C is achieved.”

“The state could temporarily lower the specifications for landlords. We are discussing this with politicians.”

Turning Off Traffic Lights

Elsewhere, Helmut Dedy, head of the German Association of Towns and Cities, has suggested turning off traffic lights at night and shutting off hot water in council buildings, museums, and sports centers, according to the Financial Times.

The district of Lahn-Dill, near Frankfurt, is reportedly switching off the hot water in its 86 schools and 60 gyms from mid-September in an effort to save €100,000 ($84,000) in energy costs, while Düsseldorf has temporarily closed a massive swimming pool complex called the Münster-Therme.

Berlin has followed suit, opting to turn down the thermostat on open-air swimming pools, according to the report.

Amid a potential worsening energy crisis this winter, Germany has made the “painful” decision to restart decommissioned coal power plants, Habeck has said.

Yet even with further potential rationing across the country, Russian gas cuts are severely impacting the nation, including many of its key industries.

German Federation of Trade Unions head Yasmin Fahimi warned earlier this month that “entire industries are in danger of permanently collapsing: aluminum, glass, the chemical industry,” owing to Russian gas supply cuts, and that “such a collapse would have massive consequences for the entire economy and jobs in Germany.”

Katabella Roberts is a news writer for The Epoch Times, focusing primarily on the United States, world, and business news.