“Russia is blackmailing us,” said Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, as she introduced the plan to reduce gas consumption. “Russia is using energy as a weapon.”
The bloc is urging member nations to immediately begin cutting their use of natural gas to prepare for an uncertain and possibly unsteady supply before the winter.
In Germany alone, half of all homes are heated with gas, and the fuel is a crucial element to keeping the country’s important chemical, steel making and auto industries running. Even before the July 11 shutdown of Nord Stream 1, the government in Berlin had declared a “gas crisis” and began enacting measures to reduce gas consumption, such as ordering the resumption of coal-fired power plants to replace those running on gas.
In the weeks leading up to the shutdown, Gazprom had already reduced flows through the pipeline to 40 percent of its capacity.
The head of Germany’s network regulator, Klaus Müller, said that flows had returned to that level early Thursday — exceeding the amount that Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy monopoly, had told operators would be delivered.
“Unfortunately, the political uncertainty and the 60 percent cut from mid-June remain,” Mr. Müller said.
Patricia Cohen contributed reporting.