Energy: What a mild winter would mean for gas consumption – Economy
Last Thursday caused one Press release from the German Weather Service (DWD) and the Federal Network Agency for headlines: The DWD expects a rather mild winter in Germany. This is good news for all energy consumers, after all, less heating is required at higher temperatures. And Klaus Müller, head of the Federal Network Agency, was also optimistic that “a comparatively mild winter” could help to maintain the necessary savings of at least 20 percent in gas consumption in the coming months.
It’s all a question of perspective
If the model calculations of the DWD are correct, the next three months will be significantly warmer with an average temperature of at least two degrees Celsius than the long-term mean of the reference period from 1991 to 2020 (1.4 degrees Celsius). The coming winter would thus be among the warmest third of winters in this period.
At first glance, this is good news in times of gas shortages and high energy prices. However, according to Müller, the necessary savings of 20 percent do not relate to gas consumption since 1991, but to the years 2018 to 2021. Three of the past four winters were significantly warmer than the two degrees Celsius forecast by the DWD for the coming winter. This is not only another indication of ongoing global warming, but also has consequences for the expected gas consumption.
There is a clear connection between the average temperature in Germany and the gas consumption of households and businesses: the colder the winter, the higher the consumption natural gas by private households and small businesses. In comparison with the previous years, with which the German gas consumption is compared this winter, the forecast of the DWD is not mild. If the model calculations are correct, the winter will be rather cool compared to the last four years – and with the same heating behavior of consumers as in previous years, this would result in increased consumption of natural gas.
At the request of the SZ, the Federal Network Agency is therefore also somewhat more cautious than in the press release. The average temperature of the comparison period used by the Federal Network Agency in the years 2018 to 2021 is around 2.5 degrees Celsius and is therefore higher than the DWD forecast for the coming winter.
Without saving gas, consumption in the coming winter would be higher than the average of the past few years. According to calculations by the Federal Network Agency, a half a degree colder winter would lead to a daily increase in consumption of a good 70 gigawatt hours if no savings were made.
Savings of almost a quarter needed
In recent months, however, households have already saved significantly on gas, and there are no signs that this is changing. These savings efforts must also be maintained in the coming months. Based on the 20 percent savings that, according to the head of the Federal Network Agency, should be achieved overall compared to the average of the past four years, this would correspond to a daily consumption of 1600 gigawatt hours and thus savings of 24 percent compared to heating behavior in previous years at appropriate temperatures (about 2100 gigawatt hours at an average temperature of two degrees Celsius).
Calculations by the German Institute for Economics (DIW) suggest that behavior-based savings over the past few weeks have typically been around 20 percent compared to the 2018-2021 mean. According to the DIW, the mild temperatures in the past few weeks were more decisive than individual heating behavior: the past month was the warmest October since weather records began. This has made a significant contribution to the fact that German households and businesses have consumed 28 percent less gas in the second half of the year than the average for the same period from 2018 to 2021.
As of the beginning of November, German households have achieved the targeted 20 percent savings. The same applies to the less temperature-dependent consumption in industry: this is where the Savings in the second half of the year around 22 percent compared to the average of previous years.
The winters are getting milder
Whether a winter with an average temperature of two degrees is considered mild or not depends on one’s perspective. The recent past is decisive for gas consumption. In order to be able to assess climatic developments, however, longer comparison periods must be selected. It is therefore absolutely correct that the DWD describes its prognosis as “rather mild”. Due to the climate crisis, winters in Germany are becoming milder and milder.
However, these long periods of time are not decisive for gas requirements this winter. Therefore, to ensure that there is enough gas and that the climate is also protected, gas consumption must continue to be significantly reduced. Precisely because it can be significantly cooler on individual days than the long-term average. And because model calculations like those of the DWD are always associated with uncertainties. Nevertheless, the good news from the DWD winter forecast remains, a bitterly cold winter is rather unlikely.