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Germany will nationalize gas distributor Uniper to avoid a crisis in energy supply

Pipelines at the Etzel ESE natural gas storage facility, operated by Uniper Energy Storage GmbH, a unit of Uniper SE, in Etzel, Germany. (Credit: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Germany has announced it will nationalize gas giant Uniper as part of a plan worth 8 billion euros ($7.9 billion) to stem a looming shortage of energy supplies due to the war in Ukraine.

Europe has been affected by the rise in gas prices as a result of the Russian invasion and the suspension of gas flows to the continent.

The German government will own around 99% of Uniper and 8% of its Finnish parent company Fortum, Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in Berlin on Wednesday.

Uniper, Germany’s largest gas importer, provides 40% of the country’s gas supply and is crucial for large companies and private consumers.

In July, Foreign Minister Olaf Scholz announced that the government would step in to bail out Uniper with a package of up to 15 billion euros ($15.3 billion), after it was bankrupted by months of gas supply cuts from Russia and the escalation of market prices.

But Habeck said the situation had “worsened dramatically” after Russia cut gas supplies to Europe through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline indefinitely on September 1, citing an oil leak.

Russian gas has had to be replaced by expensive alternatives, leading to higher bills for consumers.

Habeck said a gas fee would be charged to German customers from October 1, telling reporters: “We have found a legally secure way to impose a gas fee.”

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Although gas supply via Nord Stream 1 is suspended, Germany’s gas reserves are filled to more than 90% of capacity, European storage provider GIE AGSI+ said on its website.

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