Germany to enforce heating limits and turn off public lights amid Russian gas crisis

People walk on the main shopping street in Cologne Germany, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Germany has entered a harder lockdown, closing shops and schools in an effort to bring down stubbornly high new cases of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Shops in Germany will be banned from keeping lights on past 10pm in new energy saving measures. (AP)

Germany has signed off emergency measures for the winter, including turning off lights in public spaces, amid the spiralling energy crisis.

Berlin, which is heavily reliant on Russian gas imports, is bracing itself for shortages in the coming months.

Gazprom – the gas company that is majority-owned by the Russian government – has cut gas supplied to Germany to 20% of its capacity following sanctions brought in over the war in Ukraine.

The company claims the reduced supply is due to technical issues, but Germany says it is a politically motivated response.

As such, the Bundestag has been forced to find ways to reduce the usage of gas amid fears the country is falling short of the gas reserves it needs to see it through the winter.

From 1 September, buildings and monuments will be banned from being illuminated for aesthetic purposes, and businesses could be banned from keeping their shopfronts lit from 10pm to 6am.

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Pipes at the landfall facilities of the 'Nord Stream 2' gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany, March 7, 2022. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke  REFILE - CORRECTING YEAR
Pipes at the landfall facilities of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are pictured in Lubmin, Germany. (PA)

Public buildings, with the exception of social institutions such as hospitals, will also not be allowed to be heated above 19C.

The heating could be turned off entirely in corridors and foyers.

A ban is also planned on the heating of private swimming pools.

Announcing the measures on Wednesday, economy minister Robert Habeck said:"Overall the measures save energy. However, not to the extent that we can sit back and say, 'That'll do now.

"They will roughly reduce gas usage by 2-2.5%."

It is hoped the measures will save private households, and the public sector around €10.8bn (£9.12bn) over the next two years.

However, the move has brought safety concerns for people in town and city centres, The Local reports.

Read more: Europe’s natural gas market tests record highs as supply worries mount

FILE - An explosion is seen in an apartment building after Russian's army tank fires in Mariupol, Ukraine, March 11, 2022. Six months ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in an unprovoked act of aggression, starting the largest military conflict in Europe since World War II. Putin expected a quick victory but it has turned into a grinding war of attrition. Russian offensive are largely stuck as Ukrainian forces increasingly target key facilities far behind the front lines. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka, File)
The EU has pledged to reduce gas 15% following the war in Ukraine. (AP)

German Retail Association CEO Stefan Genth said energy saving must not be undertaken at the expense of people's safety.

He added: "With shop window lighting, we ensure safety and social responsibility in cities, especially in the less frequented periods at night."

Germany is not the only European nation which is striving to cut gas usage in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

All EU member states have pledged to a voluntary 15% reduction in gas consumption by the end of March 2023.

The feat is going to be difficult, as before the invasion, Russia supplied 40% of the EU’s gas and 55% of Germany’s.

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German Economy and Climate Action Minister Robert Habeck speaks during a news conference on the future use of liquefied natural gas (LNG), in Berlin, Germany August 16, 2022. REUTERS/Lisi Niesner
German economy and climate action minister Robert Habeck announced the newest measures on Wednesday. (AP)

In France, trials are underway in 14 communes in the Val d'Oise department north of Paris to fully switch off public lighting for three-and-a-half hours every night.

“The energy [price] boom made us take the step and try this experiment,” Yannick Boëdec, mayor of the Cormeilles-en-Parisis commune, told BFMTV in June.

Anne-Marie Ducroux, the spokesperson of ANPCEN, a French association fighting light pollution also said turning off the lights is the "easiest" measure to take as it "costs almost nothing and ... immediately pays off in euros, in kilowatt hours saved and in reduction of light pollution."

The government has also warned energy price caps cannot stay in place forever.

Government spokesman Olivier Veran also warned on Wednesday that France can not hold on to billion euro energy price caps to help households cope with soaring inflation.

Gas prices in France are currently frozen and the government had also put in place a cap for power price hikes, but both measures are set to expire this winter.

"There may be price increases," Veran said.