Britain’s energy regulator said that fuel bills for 24 million households would rise by 80 percent beginning in October, putting pressure on the next prime minister, expected to be Liz Truss, to turn immediate attention to coming up with a massive aid package to head off a catastrophic winter.

Britain’s government is not the only one working to mitigate the energy crisis in Europe. Facing dire circumstances, lawmakers and regulators across the continent are increasingly intervening in the energy markets to protect consumers.

At the same time, the European natural gas market has changed substantially over the last year as Russia crimped supplies and Europe turned to other sources. Flows from Russia to Europe have declined sharply.

imports of liquefied natural gas shipped by sea from the United States and elsewhere, and increased pipeline flows from producers including Norway and Azerbaijan. The problem is that the shifts have forced gas prices higher, as Europe vies with Asia for limited supplies of liquefied gas.

Until Friday’s announcement there was increasing optimism about the prospect for navigating the winter with less Russian gas, leading to the fall in natural gas prices in recent days. Wood Mackenzie, an energy research firm, has projected that Russian pipeline gas imports will steadily decline from supplying more than a third of European demand in recent years to around 9 percent in 2023.

Even the importance of Nord Stream has diminished. Analysts say that Gazprom has so constrained Nord Stream volumes this summer that the pipeline’s performance is no longer crucial to the overall fundamentals of the market. But news about the conduit still has a psychological impact, and some analysts expect gas prices to jump when markets open on Monday.

“A complete shutdown will obviously have implications on market sentiment given how tight the market is,” said Massimo Di Odoardo, vice president for global gas at Wood Mackenzie. Such an event, he added, would “increase the risk of further cuts via other pipelines bringing Russian gas to the E.U. via Ukraine and Turkey.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed.

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U.N. Inspectors Set Out for Embattled Nuclear Plant

Credit…Annegret Hilse/Reuters

Gazprom, Russia’s government-owned energy giant, shut off natural gas flows early Wednesday through Nord Stream 1, the critical pipeline that connects Russia to Germany, raising fresh worries about European energy supplies.

Gazprom said the cutoff was temporary and was necessary for maintenance, although the German government and energy executives consider it to be politically motivated. After three days, Gazprom said, the pipeline will restart “provided that no malfunctions are identified.” It said flows would resume at 20 percent of capacity, the same reduced level it has provided since late July.

Energy markets will be closely watching to see if supplies do resume as scheduled. In July, the pipeline was shut down for 10 days, again for maintenance.

Like other European countries, Germany is rushing to fill natural gas storage facilities before winter as insurance against cutoffs by Russia. The Russian government appears to be trying to obstruct that effort as well as create uncertainty over future gas deliveries.

So far, the results have been mixed. German gas storage facilities have reached more than 83 percent of capacity and appear likely to meet the government’s goal of 90 percent by Nov. 1.

On the other hand, the cutoffs of flows and worries about supplies in the coming months have driven natural gas prices in Europe to record levels in recent weeks, inflicting some of the economic damage that the efforts to store up gas are aimed at preventing.

Benchmark natural gas futures for Europe have fallen by around a quarter from Friday’s records after Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Union, suggested on Monday that officials would work on breaking the link between gas and electric power prices.

Gas prices continued sliding on Wednesday, but they remain exorbitant, roughly nine times the level of a year ago.

Russia said it was committed to meeting its gas export contracts, but that Western financial sanctions, imposed over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, mean that Gazprom “simply cannot fulfill them,” the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters, according to the Russian state-run Interfax news agency.

Gazprom is not only aiming at Germany. On Tuesday, Engie, a large French utility, said that Gazprom had informed the company that it was cutting gas supplies over a contract dispute. “Russia is using gas as a weapon of war and we must prepare for the worst case scenario of a complete interruption of supplies,” France’s energy transition minister, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, told France Inter radio, Reuters reported.

On Monday, Uniper, a German utility that is one of Europe’s largest natural gas buyers and suppliers, said that it had already exhausted a 9 billion euro ($9 billion) credit facility from the German government and was asking for €4 billion more.

Uniper said that with contracted supplies from Gazprom down 80 percent, it was having to buy gas on the market at significantly higher prices to supply customers, leading to losses that it said exceed €100 million a day.

Uniper agreed to a bailout in July that would include the government taking a stake in the company, but further steps including approval from the European Union are needed before it can be put fully in place.

The company’s chief executive, Klaus-Dieter Maubach, said in a statement that Uniper was working with the German government on “a permanent solution to this emergency.” Otherwise, he warned, the company would not be able to fulfill what he called its “system-critical function” as a supplier of natural gas to municipalities and factories.

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Red Cross Requests Access To Ukraine Prison After POWS Die

By Associated Press
July 30, 2022

Both sides alleged the attack on the prison was premeditated and intended to silence the Ukrainian prisoners and to destroy evidence.

Russia launched nighttime attacks on several Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian officials said Saturday as they and Moscow blamed each other for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in a separatist-controlled area of the country’s east.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have a duty to react after shelling of a prison complex in Donetsk province killed the POWS.

“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskyy said in a video address late Friday. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Both sides alleged the attack on the prison was premeditated and intended to silence the Ukrainian prisoners and to destroy evidence, including of possible atrocities.

Russia claimed Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied precision rocket launchers to target the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.

The Ukrainian military, however, denied making any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka. It accused the Russians of shelling the prison to cover up the alleged torture and execution of Ukrainians there.

Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and wounded another 75. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday issued a list naming 48 Ukrainian fighters, their ages ranging from 20 to 62, who died in the attack; it was not clear if the ministry had revised its fatality count.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has organized civilian evacuations in the war and worked to monitor the treatment of POWS held by Russia and Ukraine, said it has requested access to the prison “to determine the health and condition of all the people present on-site at the time of the attack.”

“Our priority right now is making sure that the wounded receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are dealt with in a dignified manner,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian rockets hit a school building in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, overnight, and another attack occurred about an hour later, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said Saturday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The bus station in the city of Sloviansk also was hit, according to Mayor Vadim Lyakh. Sloviansk is near the front line of fighting as Russian and separatist forces try to take full control of the Donetsk region, one of two eastern provinces that Russia has recognized as sovereign states.

In southern Ukraine, one person was killed and six injured in shelling that hit a residential area in Mykolaiv, a significant port city, the region’s administration said Saturday on Facebook.

Friday’s attack on the prison reportedly killed Ukrainian soldiers who were captured in May after the fall of Mariupol, another port city where troops and the Azov Regiment of the national guard famously held out against a monthslong Russian siege.

On Saturday, an association of Azov fighters’ relatives held a demonstration outside Kyiv’s St. Sophia Cathedral and issued a statement calling for Russia to be designated a terrorist state for violating the Geneva Convention’s rules for the treatment of war prisoners.

Moscow opened a probe into the attack on POW prison, sending a team to the site from Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main criminal investigation agency.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, said the competing claims and limited information prevented assigning responsibility for the attack but that the “available visual evidence appears to support the Ukrainian claim more than the Russian.”

On the energy front, Russia’s state-owned natural gas corporation said Saturday it has halted shipments to Latvia because of contract violations. Gas giant Gazprom said the shipments were stopped because Latvia broke “terms for extraction of gas.” It did not elaborate.

The statement likely referred to a refusal to meet Russia’s demand for gas payments in rubles rather than other currencies. Gazprom has previously suspended gas shipments to other EU countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria, because they would not pay in rubles.

EU nations have been scrambling to secure other energy sources, fearing that Russia will cut off more gas supplies as winter approaches.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Germans Tip-Toe Up the Path to Energy Savings

AUGSBURG, Germany — Wolfgang Hübschle went into city government expecting a simple life, planning things like traditional festivals replete with lederhosen.

Instead, these days he has the unpopular task of calculating which traffic lights to shut off, how to lower temperatures in offices and swimming pools — and perhaps, if it comes to it, pulling the plug on Bavarians’ beloved but energy-intensive breweries.

Municipal officials like Mr. Hübschle, the economic adviser to the provincial Bavarian city of Augsburg, sit on the front line of a geopolitical struggle with Russia since European Union leaders agreed this week to try to reduce natural gas consumption by 15 percent, fearing that President Vladimir V. Putin could cut exports in retaliation for Europe’s support for Ukraine.

a second pipeline from Russia, until the war forced the project to be suspended.

underlined the threat this week when it reduced flows through Nord Stream 1 into Germany to just 20 percent, citing, unconvincingly for many, problems with its German-made turbines.

Roughly half of all homes in Germany are heated with gas, while a third of the country’s gas is used by industry. If the coming winter is particularly cold, a cutoff would be brutal.

reopening coal-fired power plants to replace those that burn gas and rapidly expanding infrastructure for liquefied natural gas, along with securing contracts for deliveries from Qatar and the United States.

In a recent social media post, Mr. Habeck admonished people to change their daily habits as part of the effort to reach the country’s goal of saving 20 percent.

“If you think, OK, swapping out the shower head, thawing out the freezer or turning down the heater, none of that makes a difference — you are deceiving yourself,” Mr. Habeck said. “It is an excuse to do nothing.”

Some officials have expressed concern that the government is stoking panic. And some are hoping incentives will encourage careful energy use.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has pledged to increase housing subsidies and shield renters from evictions over unpaid heating bills. This week, Munich announced an “energy bonus” of 100 euros to households that cut their annual consumption by 20 percent, and its utility company launched an energy-saving competition for customers this autumn.

Germans seem to be responding. The Federal Association of Energy and Water said the country was using almost 15 percent less gas compared to the same period last year, a trend they partly attributed to the record price of energy. Costs will increase further by the beginning of October, when the government introduces a gas surcharge.

In response, space heaters and wood ovens are selling out in many cities, and there is a long wait for mini-solar-panel units to power some home devices.

Claudia Kemfert, an energy economist with the German Institute for Economic Research, said such savings were critical but worried the country had wasted several months with appeals to citizens instead of taking more robust action with business.

Companies have shown they can reduce their gas consumption when they are not given a choice. Automaker Mercedes-Benz said on Wednesday it had trimmed 10 percent of its gas usage, and could cut as much as 50 percent while maintaining full operations.

“There is a lot we can achieve through market-based approaches, we should exhaust every option we have on that front so that we can avoid an emergency situation,” Ms. Kemfert said.

Municipal officials say they will have no way to understand how much their efforts can help until they get more data.

In Munich, capital of the southern state of Bavaria and an epicenter of German industry, the deputy mayor, Katrin Habenschaden, is skeptical.

“I honestly don’t believe that this can be compensated for, as much as I appreciate it through our efforts now to save energy.” she said. “Rather, I believe that we simply need other options or other solutions.”

As the deputy responsible for managing economic affairs, she has been helping the city with a kind of economic triage — assessing what kind of rationing different companies could face. Businesses, big and small, are courting the city, to make their case for why they should be spared.

Bavaria is of particular concern because it is home to companies that are drivers of German industry, like BMW and Siemens. The conservative regional government’s reluctance to challenge its heavy dependence on gas and push forward on renewable energies has also left it particularly vulnerable, Ms. Habenschaden, a Green, argued.

In Augsburg and Munich, local officials have requested that every city employee send their suggestions. One Augsburg civil servant pointed out the city’s two data centers were a major energy drain. They are now considering whether they can rely on just one.

More quietly, many local leaders are pondering which energy-hungry German traditions may have to be put on the chopping block, should the country be forced into energy rationing: Beer making? Christmas markets?

Mr. Hübschle said he believes Bavaria should shut down its famous breweries before letting its chemical industry face gas shortages.

Meanwhile, Rosi Steinberger, a member of Bavaria’s regional parliament, now works in a dark office to cut her consumption, and is debating whether to provoke the inevitable ire of Munich by suggesting it cancel its world-famous Oktoberfest. It is scheduled to return this fall after a two-year pandemic pause.

“I haven’t asked yet,” she said, with a nervous laugh. “But I also think that when people say there should be no taboos in what we consider — well, that’s what you have to think about.”

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