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ENERGY

Germany and Denmark investigate Russian pipeline pressure drop

Germany said Monday it was investigating an unexplained pressure drop in the inactive Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia, which was blocked by Berlin in the run-up to the invasion of Ukraine.

A red and white barrier tape hangs in front of the pigging station at the Nord Stream 2 gas landing facility.
A red and white barrier tape hangs in front of the pigging station at the Nord Stream 2 gas landing facility. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Büttner

The operator said it was “relatively likely that there’s a leak” in the underwater pipeline, which runs beneath the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

Authorities had spotted a “large bubble field near Bornholm”, a Danish island in the Baltic, Nord Stream 2 spokesman Ulrich Lissek told AFP.

“The pipeline was never in use, just prepared for technical operation, and therefore filled with gas,” he said.

There was, however, “no clarity” over the cause of the pressure drop in the underwater link, or whether the issue was related to a section of the pipe in “German sovereign waters”, a spokeswoman for the German economy ministry said.

Officials were working to “clarify the situation,” the spokeswoman said, adding that Danish authorities had been alerted to the issue.

The pipeline, which runs parallel to Nord Stream 1 and was intended to roughly double the capacity for undersea gas imports from Russia, was blocked by Berlin in the days before the invasion of Ukraine. Germany, which was highly dependent on imports of fossil fuels from Russia to meet its energy needs, has since come under acute stress as Moscow has dwindled supplies.

Russian energy giant Gazprom progressively reduced the volumes of gas being delivered via the Nord Stream 1 until it shut the pipeline completely at the end of August, blaming Western sanctions for the delay of necessary repairs to the pipeline.

READ ALSO: Germany’s gas storage facilities ‘over 90 percent full’

Germany has rebuffed Gazprom’s technical explanation for the cut, instead accusing Moscow of wielding energy as a weapon amid tensions over the Ukraine war.

Kremlin representatives have previously suggested that the Nord Stream 2 pipeline should be allowed to go into operation.

It was “technically possible” to continue deliveries, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in August.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who signed off on the first Nord Stream pipeline in his final days in office, has also called on Berlin to reconsider its position on the blocked second link.

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ENERGY

Danish consumers urged to keep conserving energy to avoid high costs

Although the price of electricity has recently fallen back from recent recent sky-high levels, it’s important that Danish consumers don’t return their usage habits to normal, energy experts say.

Danish consumers urged to keep conserving energy to avoid high costs

Energy prices in Denmark are currently lower than they were in the late summer and early autumn, but experts say that turning heating up to full blast – and generally scrapping measures to reduce consumption – will still result in costly bills.

While prices were high, many people in Denmark adapted their consumption habits in an effort to preserve stores and avoid high costs.

Public buildings and many businesses meanwhile implemented lower temperatures on thermostats, and power-hungry activities such as outdoor ice rinks or Christmas lighting were cancelled or cut back.

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With the weather now colder, energy prices are currently low.

That is partly because Denmark’s gas reserves that serve as an emergency backup are full, while issues at European power plants that exacerbated the crisis have been largely resolved. 

The cold weather and lower prices may tempt many to return to former habits and turn heating up as usual. But this could still see energy bills eventually hit record levels, experts have warned.

“We will have to think about what we use our electricity and gas for and make savings where we can,” Jim Vilsson, senior economist at state-owned energy company Energinet told broadcaster TV2.

“Otherwise, we could end up in a situation where we again risk being short of energy,” he said.

Data from Nordic energy stock market Nord Pool, reported by TV2, show the unit price of electricity hitting 4.36 kroner per kilowatt hour (not including fees and taxes) in late August.

The price was 0.9 kroner per kilowatt hour as of November 20th.

Gas prices similarly peaked in late August and before falling, but are higher than they were in November 2021.

READ ALSO: At what time of the day is electricity cheapest in Denmark?

“Supply wise we are well stocked at the moment. We have got the European gas strores filled well up and they are actually completely full in Denmark,” Vilsson told TV2.

Gas stocks remained full further into the late autumn than usual, according to raw material analyst Ole Sloth Hansen of Saxo Bank.

“We have only just seen gas stocks be reduced and this was three weeks later than normal. So we have lots of gas, but we’re not home and dry yet,” Hansen told TV2.

Consumers in Denmark have meanwhile reduced their consumption by an average of around 10 percent.

“The market is a little better than it was before. But I’m putting extra emphasis on ‘little’, because it’s based on a situation where we expect a relatively normal or mild winter,” Vilsson said.

Increased consumption could help to push current lower prices back up as well as deplete stocks, he warned.

“We have been able to keep prices down because we have stood together and been good at saving. If we go back to normal, we could be in a situation again where we will lack gas, coal or electricity,” he said.

READ ALSO: How do I check my Danish electricity plan and decide whether to change?

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