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Cold showers and no lights: How one German city is fighting Russia’s energy battle

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Michael Matthey/picture alliance/Getty Images

By Nadine Schmidt and Lauren Kent in London

The German city of Hanover has banned hot water in public buildings and has introduced measures to reduce heating and energy usage as Europe faces a potential natural gas crisis this winter.

“Every kilowatt-hour saved saves the gas storage tanks,” said the mayor’s office in a news release on Wednesday.

It’s the first city in Germany to switch to cold showers in public buildings, making hot water unavailable for handwashing and other uses in government facilities, gyms, and swimming pools.

The city, located in the country’s northwest, will also reduce heating in public buildings, as well as stop lighting up public buildings during the evenings. Hanover will also turn off public fountains.

“The goal is to reduce our energy consumption by 15%,” said Mayor Belit Onay. “This is a response to the looming gas shortage, which is a big challenge for municipalities — especially for a big city like Hanover.”

“The situation is unpredictable, as just the last few days have shown,” he added. “Nevertheless, the state capital is trying to prepare as best it can.”

Across the European Union, member states are scrambling to save gas and store it for winter, and on Tuesday, energy ministers agreed in principle to cut gas use by 15% from August to March. The bloc has tried to rapidly wind down its imports of Russian gas since Moscow invaded Ukraine in late February, and has pledged to break its dependence completely by 2027.

Germany, the bloc’s biggest economy, has historically relied on Russian gas to power its homes and businesses. The country has managed to slash Moscow’s share of its gas imports to 35% from 55% since the war started.

Last month, Russian state energy giant Gazprom cut flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline by 60%, blaming the West for withholding vital equipment due to sanctions.

The move prompted Germany to declare a “gas crisis” and activate the second phase of its three-stage gas emergency program, taking it one step closer to rationing supplies to industry

Earlier this week, Gazprom slashed deliveries through the pipeline again to just 20% of its capacity, citing maintenance work.

Anna Cooban, Nadine Schmidt and Mark Thompson contributed reporting.

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