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Germans panic buying electric heaters as winter gas shortage looms

Typically stoic Germans are rushing stores in an attempt to purchase electric heaters ahead of winter. The panic buying comes as German authorities issue apocalyptic warnings about shortages of natural gas as a result of the loss of Russian deliveries.

The majority of Germans heat their homes with natural gas and supplies have been severely diminished since the beginning of Russia’s brutal invasion and war on Ukraine. Sales of electric space heaters have exploded with demand far outpacing supply in the country of 83 million.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck told Deutschlandfunk radio on Sept. 30 that the country is in an “extremely tense situation” when it comes to energy supply.

“If we don’t save, if households don’t reduce consumption, we still risk not having enough gas in the winter,” he said.

Europe’s biggest economy is struggling to cope with surging gas and electricity costs caused mostly by a collapse in Russian gas supplies to Europe, which Moscow has blamed on Western sanctions.

The shortage has made a video (below) of former President Donald Trump warning Germany to go viral. Speaking at the United Nations on September 25, 2018, Trump warned Germany not to become dependent on Russian energy. He praised Poland for developing alternative sources. The Trump administration said Russia’s undersea pipeline project to Germany, known as Nordstream 2, would concentrate 75 percent of Russian gas exports to Europe in one pipeline.

Trump continued that it was dangerous for Germany and the rest of Europe. As he spoke, German representatives are seen laughing and rolling their eyes. America and European news outlets mocked Trump at the time.

The video has gained tens of millions of views across various internet platforms as of October 2022 as Trump’s statement proved prescient with German shelves of electric heaters remaining empty and rationing being enforced.

Now, Germany’s network regulator Bundesnetzagentur says rationing will be necessary because gas consumption is too high compared to current supply, according to a statement. Gas consumption is currently higher than previous years, even with cutbacks.

“Without significant cutbacks in the private sector, too, it will be difficult to avoid a gas shortage in winter,” said Bundesnetzagentur chief Klaus Mueller in a statement, adding that cutbacks are needed even if temperatures don’t continue to fall and even then, there’s no guarantee of a “sure-fire success.”

Mueller said Germany will be able to get through the winter under three conditions: the country has to import more gas; the gas supplies of neighboring countries must remain stable; and each individual must cut back on gas consumption, “even if it gets even colder toward winter.”

As the winter shortage looms, sales of electric heaters have jumped 76 percent compared to the year-earlier period, according to market research company Growth from Knowledge (GfK) data provided to German news outlet Deutsche Welle.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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