Hamburg, the largest non-capital city in the European Union, has warned that it could ration be forced to hot water as the Russian energy crisis causes chaos.
Jens Kerstan, environment senator for Germany’s second biggest city, told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag on Saturday that Hamburg could restrict availability of hot water to certain times of days “in an acute gas shortage.”
“We are in a much crisis worse than most people realize,” Kerstan said in a separate interview with the Hamburger Abendblatt on Sunday. He urged people to take shorter showers, avoid full baths, and install modern thermostats and water-saving shower heads.
“The more we save now, the better the situation will be in winter because the stores will fill up,” he told the Hamburger Abendblatt, speaking about reducing demand for natural gas.
Western nations have been moving to pivot from Russian energy sources after the country invaded Ukraine in late February. Some have imposed sanctions on Russia’s energy sector in an attempt to cut off funding to its military, while Russia itself has cut off some gas supplies to countries including over their refusal to pay rubles.
Germany’s economy and climate ministry said that it previously imported around 55% of its gas from Germany but that this had fallen to 35% by mid-April. Germany says that Russian imports could account for as little as 10% of its natural gas consumption by summer 2024.
Like other countries, Germany is scrambling to plug the gap in gas supplies. The head of the German Federation of Trade Unions told Bild am Sonntag that gas bottlenecks could cause the collapse of “entire industries” including aluminum, glass, and chemicals.
On June 23, the economy and climate ministry announced that it had entered the second of its three-stage gas emergency plan and warned Germany that supplies were under pressure. German energy minister Robert Habeck said that the country’s top priority was filling its gas stores, which he said were 58% more full than last year.
The country has imported more natural gas from Norway and the Netherlands, as well as more liquefied natural gas. Alongside encouraging energy efficiency and ramping up renewable-energy infrastructure, Germany has also made plans to fire up idle coal power plants as a short-term fix.
Kerstan told Welt am Sonntag that alongside potential hot water rationing, the city could also consider reducing the maximum room temperature in the district’s heating network. He said that if there were a gas shortage, technical reasons mean it wouldn’t be possible to distinguish between commercial and private customers everywhere in Hamburg.