How Germany’s energy-saving measures will affect ordinary people

Nation ‘united by anxiety’ as authorities cut off hot water and switch off lights

The statue of Frederick the Great its lights turned off in Berlin on 27 July
Berlin's statue of Frederick the Great has had its spotlights lights turned off
(Image credit: Omer Messinger/Getty Images)

Hanover has became the first major German city to announce energy-saving measures amid nationwide fears of a winter energy crisis after Moscow cut the flow of gas through the Nord Stream pipeline to just 20% of capacity.

Fears of a looming energy crisis in the country, which is heavily reliant on Russia for gas, have been coupled with concern over the steps that several cities are taking to preserve supplies.

‘Shrouded in darkness’

Local authorities in Hanover are planning to cut off the hot water in public buildings, swimming pools, sports halls and gyms, reported The Guardian. Municipal buildings will only be heated between October and March, at no more than 20C (68F) room temperature. Mobile air conditioning units and fan heaters are banned.

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Other measures include switching off public fountains and ceasing to illuminate major buildings at night. All lamps will be converted to LED, and motion detectors will be used instead of permanent lighting in toilet facilities, car parks and corridors.

In Berlin, the German capital, about 200 historic monuments and municipal buildings, including the Memorial Church on Breitscheidplatz and the Jewish Museum, have been “shrouded in darkness” this week, with the city switched off spotlights to save electricity, said The Guardian.

Munich has announced it will switch off spotlights on its town hall and only have cold running water at municipal offices. Meanwhile, Nuremberg is closing three of its four city-run indoor swimming pools and will shut outdoor lidos from 25 September.

‘Deer in the headlights’

The measures have been ushered in after the Russian state-controlled energy firm, Gazprom, announced that natural gas supplies to Germany through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline would be cut by 20% from Wednesday.

Germany, which is more reliant on Russian gas imports than other European countries, now fears a total gas cut-off from Moscow. As the nation also uses gas to generate about 15% of its electricity needs, this is where local authorities have focused many of their measures.

Analysts say that Germany’s dependability on Russia for gas has come back to bite it since the Ukraine war broke out. Back in April, Le Monde compared the German government to “a deer in the headlights” that was “caught in the trap of Russian gas”.

‘I like it cold’

Reporting from the German city of Cologne, which is also facing energy-saving measures, Sky News’s Adam Parsons found that the city’s largest outdoor swimming complex was all but deserted after the temperature was turned down.

The one lone swimmer, Nicole Metzinger, said that although “other people are not so happy” with the new temperature, it suited her. “I like it cold,” she told Parsons.

The daughter of an 83-year-old with Alzheimer’s was less pleased with the new restrictions. “Our mother needs it warm, especially in winter,” she said. “She is very old, spends a lot of time sitting in the apartment and likes to have it warm.”

A man living nearby said he would cope with the heating restrictions by using a “warm, heavy blanket”.

Although Germany is “accustomed to the feeling of solidity and assuredness that comes with being Europe’s economic and political leader”, wrote Parsons, the nation is now united by a “sense of anxiety”.

The government has exacerbated this sense of doom by warning households that a planned gas surcharge for customers could be far higher than expected, reported The Times.

“We can’t say yet how much gas will cost in November, but the bitter news is it’s definitely a few hundred euros per household,” said Robert Habeck, the economy minister. Some reports have predicted a levy of an extra €500 a year.

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