Germany's gas reserves have fallen to "worrying" levels, the government admitted on Wednesday, amid tensions with Russia and a delay over approval of the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline.
A spokeswoman for the ministry for the economy and climate told a press conference on Wednesday the government is "monitoring the situation of storage levels and it is certainly worrying."
Gas reserves have fallen to 35-36% from 40% recently and 80% in 2020.
More than 55% of Germany's gas imports come from Russia, a figure that has risen by 15 percentage points since 2012.
Until now, the government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz had claimed that "supplies were assured" and that there was no risk of shortages despite increasing worry in the country that there might not be enough gas to last through the winter.
According to a report by the Ministry of the Economy and Climate, a 40% reserve would only be sufficient for seven days of polar temperatures.
The Berlin-based economic institute DIW warned in a note in January that "if the conflict in Ukraine escalates and Russia effectively stops supplies to Germany, we would be faced with a new gas crisis. As a result, gas prices would continue to rise - and with them the costs for consumers and the economy as a whole".
Russia has amassed tens of thousands of troops and military equipment along its shared border with Ukraine.
The US has accused Russia of gearing up to invade its neighbour, a claim Moscow has rejected. Moscow has demanded that Ukraine and Georgia are never allowed to join the NATO security alliance.
Currently, the vast majority of gas deliveries from Russia to Europe transit through Ukraine, assuring revenues and some modicum of security for Kyiv.
But the Nord Stream 2 pipeline aims to deliver gas to Germany from Russia through the Baltic Sea, thus bypassing Ukraine. Kyiv and Washington have both criticised the pipeline, which they say weakens Ukraine's security.
The pipeline was completed in the summer of 2021 but the German regulator postponed its certification demanding the company that will operate the German section of the pipeline be domiciled in Germany.
US President Joe Biden warned on Tuesday during a joint press conference with Scholz that if Russia invades Ukraine, "then there will no longer be Nord Steam 2".
Inflation across the eurozone has soared in recent months to levels not seen in decades, driven primarily by a sharp rise in energy costs.
Energy prices across the 19 countries that use the euro were in January 28.6% higher than they were a year earlier, according to Eurostat.