Private households more careful than industry This is how individuals and companies in the region use gas and water

Bonn/Region · The use of gas and water varies in private households and companies in Bonn, Rhein-Sieg, Ahrweiler and Neuwied. Some suppliers have seen a sharp drop in usage, while others have seen only a slight change in consumption.

 In the summer months, private households use gas mainly for showering.

In the summer months, private households use gas mainly for showering.

Foto: Patrick Pleul

Are the calls to save money working or is it mainly the warm weather that is helping reduce the amount of gas being used? The EU wants its member states to consume 15 per cent less gas so that there is no supply shortage in winter. The German government is aiming for 20 percent. In Germany, consumption is indeed falling, but it is still far from the targeted savings. Nationwide, the Bundesnetzagentur (Federal Network Agency) reported a significant decline in gas consumption in the first seven months compared to the previous year. In January, the amount of gas used was down by nine percent in Germany, in February it was down 13 percent, in March 16 percent, in April 14 percent, in May 25 percent, in June 14 percent and in July three percent. Overall, in the first seven months of 2022, gas consumption fell by around 14 per cent compared to the previous year.

What are the people and companies in the Bonn, Rhine-Sieg, Ahrweiler and Neuwied region doing? Are they following politicians' calls to save in order to avoid a gas shortage in winter by consuming less?

More holidaymakers

"There is a tendency towards decreasing natural gas consumption in our area," says Rhenag spokesman Detlev Albert. The quantities that Siegburg-based Rhenag purchases via the upstream network operator have decreased by about ten percent, adjusted for temperature. But Albert says there are various reasons behind the drop. "Many customers have started taking long holidays again this year, and industrial production is also down in some places, with one reason being the shortage of raw materials." He says it is therefore difficult to say with certainty whether appeals for austerity are being taken to heart in the region.

Weather affects consumption

Bad Honnef AG's gas customers also reduced their consumption by about 16 per cent from January to July compared to the same period in 2021, says marketing manager Daniela Paffhausen. But it’s probably because of the weather. 2021 was significantly cooler than 2022, especially during the winter months. In May 2021, for example, consumption was just under 50 gigawatt hours (GWh) and thus about twice as high as in May 2022. If you compare the years 2018 to 2022 in the period from January to July, the peak figure (457 GWh) was recorded in 2021. In 2022, gas consumption up to July was 384 GWh. If you compare this figure to July 2020, which was also warmer than average, the differences are rather small (379 GWh). Deviations from the long-term average are therefore quite marginal and so far do not indicate a change in consumption patterns.

"In general, we assume that changes in consumers’ behaviour are weather-related. We won’t be able to see if there are any reactions to increased energy prices until the winter months," said Paffhausen. Current savings in gas and water usage probably resulted from a less energy and water being used in manufacturing, as more and more companies have stopped production or reduced their business operations. According to the Federal Network Agency's gas situation report, natural gas consumption by industrial customers in Germany in July was around 21.3 per cent below the July average for the years 2018 to 2021.

Fluctuating industrial consumption

Energieversorgung Mittelrhein AG (EVM), the basic utility in some areas of northern Rhineland-Palatinate, has also noticed significant savings in gas consumption. In the first seven months of the year, there was a drop of more than ten per cent compared to the same period last year, says company spokesman Marcelo Peerenboom. However, fuel demand is subject to strong fluctuations, mainly due to industrial consumption, which can vary significantly depending on the number of orders. This is why in May alone, consumption was 30 per cent lower than in the same month of the previous year.

Overall, private households are saving significantly more than manufacturing. "We are hearing that some companies have decided to produce more in advance because they fear further increases in energy prices and also want to take precautions in case of a gas shortage," Peerenboom said. Overall, industrial consumption is at the previous year's level, while private households are saving ten percent and more.

Falling demand due to high prices

Stadtwerke Troisdorf GmbH also recorded a significant decline in gas consumption. However, it is not as great as in Germany as a whole. The German Association of Energy and Water Industries had announced that in June 2022 almost a quarter less gas was consumed than in the same month of the previous year. "The increasing awareness of citizens to save as much energy as possible is bearing fruit: In personal exchanges with our customers, we learn that the wish to conserve energy plays a central role, but we cannot represent this in figures," says company spokesperson Silke Schmitz. There are certainly several factors behind the decline. On the one hand, the order situation of many large customers has developed negatively, for example due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine; on the other hand, high prices are behind the drop in demand.

Decreased consumption since May

Figures in Bonn are more differentiated: from January to April of this year, Stadtwerke Bonn customers used about as much gas as last year, explains spokesperson Clarissa Pütz. Since May, BonnNetz has recorded a decreased use of natural gas in the network. The reasons could be varied: "One reason will be the mild weather in the summer months. Furthermore, the savings can partly be attributed to customers being more careful about their energy consumption."

In the summer months, natural gas is mainly used in private households for heating water, she said. "So we can’t say anything yet about the upcoming domestic heating season," says Pütz. In the commercial and industrial sector, gas is used for production purposes. Here, a deliberate energy saving can be assumed, which will presumably also continue in the forthcoming heating season. Stadtwerke Bonn has saved natural gas by using only the steam from its waste incineration plant for district heating instead of natural gas.

Companies reduce production

E-regio from Euskirchen does not yet want to draw any conclusions as to whether usage behaviour has changed due to calls to save energy: "Gas consumption is strongly influenced by the weather and can only be compared to a limited extent," says company spokesperson Sebastian Zimer. Also, the heating period has not yet started, so that savings measures have hardly influenced gas so far. Some industrial customers who use gas for their production processes have announced that they will reduce their gas consumption because they can switch to other energy sources.

Original text: Claudia Mahnke

Translation: Jean Lennox

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