Berlin’s landmarks go dark as Germany races to save energy for winter


From the State Opera to Charlottenburg Palace, Berlin is turning off the lights at its landmarks one by one in a scramble to save the energy it needs to heat homes in winter.

The dome of the Berlin Cathedral dimmed and the silhouettes of statues loomed in the dark as Russia slashed the natural gas supply to Germany this week.

In the country’s north, the city of Hanover also launched a plan to curb consumption on Wednesday. Hot water stopped running in the showers or bathrooms of public buildings and sports facilities, and temperatures will be regulated in schools.

Hanover’s fountains also went quiet, days after Russian energy giant Gazprom said it would halve the daily gas flowing through its main pipeline to Germany — the biggest between Russia and Western Europe — keeping European fears over the continent’s energy crisis high.

“In the face of the war against Ukraine and Russia’s energy threats, it is vital that we handle our energy as carefully as possible,” Berlin’s senator for the environment, Bettina Jarasch, said in an announcement on the switch-off at 200 sites.

The shutdown of nearly 1,400 spotlights or projectors could take weeks because workers will have to go from one building to the next to disconnect equipment. While it could cut about $40,000 a year, the German capital will not save money from it initially because of the costs of the operation, the senator’s office said.

Amid summer heat wave, Germany worries about having enough gas for winter

As prices squeeze Europe and countries race to build up storage, Germany’s reliance on Russian gas has made it particularly vulnerable to disruptions. The country still depends on Russia for about a third of its supplies.

In cutting gas flow through Nord Stream 1, Gazprom has cited problems with the pipeline’s turbines.

But German officials have accused Moscow of using energy as leverage in its war in Ukraine to retaliate for Western sanctions and weapons deliveries to Kyiv. The European Union urged its 27 nations last week to ration gas before winter and cut consumption by 15 percent in the coming months.

The plan in Hanover is to cut consumption by 15 percent to store supplies so that the city can operate critical infrastructure, nursing homes and clinics in case of an emergency. Mayor Belit Onay said authorities were “trying to prepare as best as possible” for the possibility of worse shortages.

Hanover became the first big city to launch its energy-saving plan as others around the country make contingency plans, according to German media.

“The situation is unpredictable, as the last few days have shown,” the mayor told reporters in a news conference on the measures. “Every kilowatt hour saved protects the gas storage.”

Sofia Diogo Mateus contributed to this report.

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