AWhen the previous federal government drew up the gas emergency plan, everything was still rosy. In September 2019 there was neither Corona nor war in Ukraine. They worked diligently on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and paid regular visits to Russian President Vladimir Putin – despite his brutal actions in Syria and his attacks on secret service agents and opposition members.
At the time, no one could have imagined that the contingency plan would have to do more than accommodate regional blackouts of limited duration. Rather, they were accidents or acts of terrorism. If that had happened, the order would have been: consumers before industry. No citizen should have frozen, but large energy-intensive industrial facilities should have closed.
However, a scenario in which all gas supplies to a country like Russia shut down overnight was not in the plan at the time. Or, to put it better, he gave no other answer than the one mentioned: in this case too, the consumers should have the preference, but the industry should take second place. The gas emergency plan has been activated for a few weeks without having yet entered into force. The gas is still flowing. But there are growing fears that this could change quickly.
With Russia’s war in Ukraine, a gas embargo is seen as part of a possible sanctions package. For political, moral and international law reasons, some are calling for the purchase to be stopped. Germany is proving to be a brake in Europe. Because the federal government rejected that.
But since Russia cut off gas to Poland and Bulgaria a few days ago, even what little faith there was in Putin’s willingness to at least honor existing agreements has disappeared. The debate on the gas emergency plan is now truly relaunched.
Industry wants to be put on an equal footing with private households
At first, the debate was carried out in an extremely exaggerated way under the guise of the “freeze for peace”. This has harmed the political debate. No one wanted to be seen as a warning against the times. But that is changing.
Business representatives and big business bosses are pressuring the previous order to change something. Again, it’s underlined. “What’s the point of workers staying warm at home and jobs disappearing,” said Arndt G. Kirchhoff, president of the National Association of Professional Associations of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Two more degrees – but a lost job? If the industry does not yet demand priority over private households, it wants to be put on an equal footing. You don’t want to go that far in politics. But there is now a broad consensus that the previous order needs to be changed and that concrete prioritization needs to be done within the groups.
FDP deputy parliamentary group Lukas Köhler told WELT: “Even if households are rightly given top priority, the general regulations should always be checked for any exceptions that may be necessary. Different factors must play a role within the industry, including the impact on jobs, supply chains and the economic damage caused by a production stoppage.
The spokeswoman for energy policy in the Greens’ parliamentary group, Ingrid Nestlé, sees it in the same way: “Households should not be sorted behind industry. It is important to guarantee a basic supply. » However, it is necessary that in case of emergency, a contribution is made to the economy of space heating.
As far as industry is concerned, Nestlé wants to prioritize according to certain criteria: “It does not only depend on why the gas is needed, but also on the region in which the companies are located and the potential for savings The importance of the products for the supply chain and for society as a whole is also an important criterion.
“Food supply must be guaranteed”
His colleague from Linke, Ralph Lenkert, is even more precise: “The supply of food must be guaranteed. This also includes businesses that indirectly serve food, such as the production of ammonia-based fertilizers. This results in a prioritization of nutrition/food over anything that serves the public interest – energy, water, waste, public transport, etc. After that, priorities must be set where stopping production would cause major economic damage, such as in the glass industry.
In the glass industry, it often happens that systems can no longer be used after they have been shut down. When liquid glass hardens, it shatters.
SPD energy politician Nina Scheer also said: “In industry, sensitive infrastructure should be preferred, such as the food and health sectors. But we must also be aware that glassmakers are also involved when they produce ampoules for vaccines, to cite just one example among many others. energy security law currently under discussion in parliament.
The AfD parliamentary group’s economic policy spokesman, Leif-Erik Holm, cites other areas where the shutdown would cause “existential damage”. “This would be the case for galvanizing plants, for example. Because if the liquid zinc solidifies in the boilers, the systems are destroyed. A gas stop for some industries can also lead to the disruption of important supply chains for key industries. »
The nuclear question is also mentioned
Both the AfD and the CSU are taking advantage of the debate to demand the continued operation of the three nuclear power plants. “We are asking for compensation for the continued operation of nuclear power plants for another five years, which would guarantee the supply of electricity to ten million households,” said CSU General Secretary Stephan Mayer. However, this does not quickly lead to more gas in the industry. Because radiators often run on gas; Switching them quickly to electricity is not possible.
Bavarian Economics Minister Hubert Aiwanger (free voters) therefore wants to take a pragmatic, if not simple, path. He told WELT: “I suggest asking all gas consumers, from private households to big industry, if they want to reduce or stop their gas consumption in exchange for compensation. For example, a large number of gas-consuming individuals who have a wood-burning stove or install a pellet heater in the short term could save on gas that could run a large industrial operation when things get serious.
So save before shutting down? One approach, according to CDU Deputy Chairman Andreas Jung: “In addition to appeals, this can be significantly reinforced by incentives. A significant amount of gas can be saved overall through optimization of mass heating in the short term. and optimal and efficient settings.
In addition, there must be a contribution from the public sector: “In Italy, from May 1, certain public facilities cannot be cooled below 27 degrees. Four billion cubic meters of gas must be saved in the coming months. When will the federal government come forward with a proposal for justifiable cost-cutting measures in the public sector? In companies too, “all possibilities for voluntary savings must be exhausted”. The opposition expects a “global strategy” from the government.
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