FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germans could overload their power grid as they switch to inefficient electric heaters in an attempt to avoid gas shortages this winter, utilities warned in an article published on Sunday.
Households have been stocking up on electric fan heaters, including portable devices, sales figures show, amid fears that Russia could cut or further limit gas supplies in the wake of its war in Ukraine.
The managing director of the German association of energy and water utilities, BDEW, told daily Handelsblatt that customers could be left with even heftier power bills if they do not use the devices sparingly.
"And they can overburden the power grids, for instance when many households switch on their fan heaters in one part of town at the same time on a cold winter's night," BDEW director Kerstin Andreae was quoted as saying.
She said she understood people's fears of cold homes, but some of the coping mechanisms could backfire.
Germany, along with other European Union countries, is scrambling to support homes and industries burdened by a further surge in energy prices after Russia halted supplies through the Nord Stream 1 natural gas pipeline.
The German government has pledged that industrial users would be the first to be rationed in case of a shortfall and that private households would be spared any cuts.
The president of Germany's federal network agency also said local power blackouts could result from peaks in fan heater use, according to a Saturday interview with newspaper Tagesspiegel.
Klaus Mueller added that even amid "very high" gas prices, electric heaters would still cost users more than gas-based central heating, which is the most common form of residential heating in the country.
Germans bought 600,000 electric heating devices during the first half of the year, up almost 35% from a year earlier, according to data by market researcher GfK.
(Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Andrew Heavens)