May 15 2023
German gas network industry association FNB Gas -- which represents 12 grid operators -- said May 16 it could not give the "all-clear" for next winter and that Germany could still suffer gas shortages in the event of cold weather.
In its review of winter 2022-23, FNB Gas said the technical capability of the transmission system operators had been "stretched to the limit."
"We can't give the all-clear for next winter either," FNB Gas managing director Inga Posch said.
Germany was one of the EU countries worst affected by the curtailment in Russian gas flows through 2022, with supplies via Nord Stream gradually reduced and then halted at the end of August.
It set itself strict storage targets last summer -- which went further than those agreed at EU level -- as part of new energy security legislation. It also advocated for 20% gas savings -- above the 15% EU target.
FNB Gas said Russia's war against Ukraine would continue to be felt on gas markets and that under certain circumstances, such as particularly low temperatures next winter, gas shortages could still occur.
"As part of their responsibility for transport, the TSOs will continue to make their contribution to security of supply in close cooperation with all stakeholders," Posch said. "We must not rest on our successful crisis management and not slacken in our efforts to diversify and save."
Posch said supply last winter was secured and shortages avoided mainly due to the mild winter and "consumption-conscious" gas customers.
Grid operators were also able to enable gas from alternative sources to find its way into Germany through network flexibility and ad-hoc measures, FNB Gas said.
To replace Russian gas, Germany turned to more imports from Norway, the Netherlands and Belgium, and also imported odorized gas from France and Switzerland for the first time.
With the commissioning of the Baltic Pipe in November 2022, export volumes to Denmark were also significantly reduced, while Germany also began direct LNG imports for the first time in December last year.
Germany also built storage sites to 100% of capacity in November last year, helping secure supply security.
FNB Gas said that hub manager THE bought and stored almost 50 TWh of gas. "By March 31, 2023, just under 12.5 TWh of this had been sold, while the remaining volumes remained in storage," it said.
Germany's gas storage sites were filled to 70% of capacity by May 14, according to data from Gas Infrastructure Europe.
High stocks through much of Europe have helped keep a lid on European gas prices in recent months.
Platts, part of S&P Global Commodity Insights, assessed the benchmark Dutch TTF month-ahead price at Eur32.03/MWh May 15, the lowest level since June 2021.
Despite high stock levels, German industry association INES said in April that in the event of a cold winter, sites could be fully depleted by January 2024, potentially leading to shortages.
Separately, the German energy regulator Bundesnetzagentur on May 16 launched a consultation on the country's draft gas network development plan 2022-2032.
The revised plan was published in March to reflect Germany's shift away from Russian gas and increased imports of LNG.
It also takes into account the continued demand reduction effort from German gas consumers of 20%.
"In order to permanently replace Russian gas imports, the gas network must be adapted," Bundesnetzagentur President Klaus Muller said.
"It is proposed to expand the network in order to be able to reliably transport future LNG volumes. The aim is to make the grid fit for greater diversification of our gas sources," Muller said.
In the draft, the transmission system operators propose to use the German transmission system for the transport of gas from German LNG plants and at the same time higher imports from neighboring western European countries, particularly the Netherlands and Belgium.
Network users and other stakeholders are invited to submit comments on the draft plan by June 13.
"Subsequently, the regulator may request changes to the network development plan," it said.