The measure being considered by a number of German cities is aimed at those struggling to afford high heating costs, media report
Gas shortages and skyrocketing heating costs might see many Germans unable to afford their heating bills this winter, Germany’s Bild tabloid reported on Sunday, adding that the nation’s Cities and Municipalities Association has suggested providing the most vulnerable people with public “warm-up” places instead. Some German cities have already gone ahead with such plans, the paper added.
The western German city of Ludwigshafen is about to convert its Friedrich-Ebert-Halle arena into a giant warm-up hall, Bild reported, citing the city mayor, Jutta Steinruck. The facility that used to host sports events, exhibitions and concerts and served as a vaccination center during the Covid-19 pandemic will now be potentially saving people from freezing winter temperatures, according to media reports.
“We are currently preparing for all emergency scenarios for autumn and winter,” the mayor told Bild. The measure comes as the Cities and Municipalities Association calls for similar practices to be adopted by cities all over Germany.
“Nobody can say exactly how dramatic the developments will be,” the association’s head, Gerd Landsberg told the tabloid, adding that one should consider establishing “heat islands” and “warm rooms, where people can stay, even during a very cold winter.”
According to Bild, Germany might experience not just another price hike in the coming winter but face an acute energy supply shortage in case Russia stops its gas supplies completely for whatever reason. Earlier this week, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow guarantees reliable energy supply for Europe, adding that European customers would no longer see “off-the-scale” utility bills.
The western German towns of Neustadt, Frankenthal and Landau have also been planning to create “heat islands” of their own for the winter, according to Bild. Other energy-saving strategies involve turning off external lighting for public buildings and traffic lights at night.
The city of Dusseldorf plans to reduce heating temperatures for autumn and winter to save energy, Bild reported. The use of air conditioning in summer is to be reduced as well, it added.
Last month, Russian gas monopoly Gazprom reduced the flow through the Nord Stream pipeline to 40% of capacity, citing operational risks after Canada had not returned a pipeline turbine sent there for maintenance.
Ottawa said on Saturday it would return the turbine to Germany, following Berlin’s requests. Moscow had earlier said that gas supplies to Europe would be increased if the turbine was returned. However, on July 11, Gazprom is set to close Nord Stream for 10 days for scheduled maintenance. During that time, all gas flows via the pipeline will stop.
The developments come amid EU attempts to reduce the bloc’s reliance on Russian energy amid a standoff over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine.