BERLIN — European officials have expressed confidence that they can endure a winter with limited Russian energy, as Moscow postponed restarting the flow of natural gas to Germany through a closely watched pipeline.
The European Union has been preparing for the possibility that Russia may cut gas deliveries in retaliation for European opposition to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Under the long tenure of President Vladimir V. Putin, Russia has wielded its energy supply in myriad ways for foreign policy gains, often in efforts to seek leverage over European policies by turning off the gas spigot in the wintertime.
The E.U.’s economy commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni, said Saturday that the bloc was “well prepared to resist Russia’s extreme use of the gas weapon,” according to Reuters.
“We are not afraid of Putin’s decisions, we are asking the Russians to respect contracts, but if they don’t, we are ready to react,” he said on the sidelines of an economic forum in Italy.
Germany, in particular, has imposed tough energy-saving measures.
“Even if things get really tight again with deliveries from Russia, we’ll most likely get through the winter,” Olaf Scholz, the German chancellor, said in an interview with the WAZ, a regional daily, that was published on Friday and that he posted to his Twitter account on Saturday morning.
The State of the War
- Price Cap: Finance ministers from the Group of 7 nations agreed to form an international buyers’ cartel to cap the price of Russian oil, a move that could drain President Vladimir V. Putin’s war chest.
- U.N. Inspection: Amid fears of a possible nuclear accident at the Zaporizhzhia power plant, a United Nations team braved shelling to conduct an inspection of the Russian-controlled station.
- Russia’s Military Expansion: Though Mr. Putin ordered a sharp increase in the size of Russia’s armed forces, he seems reluctant to declare a draft. Here is why.
- Unusual Approaches: Ukrainian troops, facing strained supply lines, are turning to jury-rigged weapons and equipment bartering among units.
The German ministry overseeing gas deliveries noted that Germany’s gas storage is already nearly 85 percent full, a target set for the beginning of October.
And while Germany was getting 55 percent of its natural gas from Russia in February, when Russia first attacked Ukraine, Russian gas accounted for around 10 percent of Germany’s gas mix on Tuesday — the last full day when gas flowed through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline — thanks to months of sourcing gas from other countries. Currently, Germany receives the bulk of its natural gas from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium.
“We have noted Russia’s unreliability in recent weeks and accordingly we have continued — undeterred and consistently — with our measures to strengthen our independence from Russian energy imports,” a spokeswoman for the German ministry responsible for energy said in a statement on Friday. “As a result, we are now much better equipped than we were a few months ago.”
Among the host of energy-saving rules mandated by the government to prepare are regulations that came into force Sept. 1 and which state that most public buildings can only be heated to 66 degrees Fahrenheit and cannot be externally lit after 10 p.m. But officials note that the situation is still tense and that gas savings are very much required.
“I don’t want to be misunderstood; this is not yet the ‘all clear’ signal,” Robert Habeck, the energy minister, said on Wednesday.
Gazprom, the Russian-owned energy giant, had been expected to resume the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline on Saturday after three days of maintenance. But hours before, it said that it had found oil leaks around a turbine used to pressurize the pipeline, forcing it to call off the restart. It did not give a timeline for restarting.
The gas giant said on Saturday that Siemens Energy, the German company that built the turbine, was going to help repair the broken equipment. But Robin Zimmermann, a spokesman for the company, said that as of Friday night it had not received any such request.
Siemens also does not believe that the claimed leak would be enough to force a full shutdown of the turbine, the company said. “From our technical understanding as the manufacturer of the turbine, what was found yesterday is no reason to let the turbine stand still,” Mr. Zimmerman said.