Households a Wild Card as Europe Moves to End Russian Gas Dependence

A painful push by businesses to cut their natural-gas use is bringing Europe closer to its goal of weaning itself off Russian energy. Getting consumers to follow suit might prove more difficult, the Wall Street Journal reported. Businesses, facing skyrocketing prices during a widening economic conflict running in parallel with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have ratcheted down their gas use in recent months. The reduction has exacted a significant economic cost, with slowing production at chemical plants and closed metals factories now widely expected to tip Europe into a recession. The extent of reductions by households is harder to determine because data isn’t widely available yet, but initial indications are that the pullout has been smaller and more recent than for businesses. Small gas consumers in Germany, including households, began cutting gas use after Russia’s February invasion and hit a 6% reduction in April compared with expected demand, according to a working paper co-written by Lion Hirth, a professor of energy policy at the Hertie School in Berlin. Industrial consumers started reducing demand as prices ticked upward last year and reached an 11% reduction in April. The researchers, who calculated expected demand drawing on historical trends, temperature and other factors, attributed much of the residential pullback this year not to rising prices but as a protest of Russia’s invasion. Other energy researchers have suggested that mild weather might have also played a significant role. Read more. (Subscription required.)