Germany announced on Thursday it has graduated to the “alarm” phase outlined in its gas emergency plan, following steep cuts in Russian supplies. Berlin has so far avoided enacting laws permitting utility companies to pass on skyrocketing energy costs to consumers in the largest European economy.

The elevated risk level stems from the most recent escalation in a deadlock between Europe and Moscow over the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The conflict has exposed the West’s dependence on Russian gas supplies and ignited a desperate pursuit of alternative energy sources.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck said, “It will be a rocky road that we have to travel as a country. Even if we don’t feel it yet, we are in a gas crisis.”

The move, a largely symbolic signal to businesses and citizens, marks a significant change for Germany after years of developing strong energy ties with the Kremlin. Germany had been in the “early warning” phase of the gas emergency plan since late March.

The notification of Phase 2 is a prerequisite for Germany’s plans to utilize more coal-fired electricity plants to avoid petroleum use in electricity production.

Only under the third phase, the “emergency” level, would the Federal Network Agency (the German regulatory office for electricity, gas, telecommunications, post, and railway markets) be ordered to ration fuel. German industry would have to put up with shortages, but personal domiciles enjoy greater protections and would receive gas as long as it was viable.

Hospitals and other care facilities, police, firefighters, and the military would also have special status.

Last week, Russian energy giant Gazprom reportedly cut flows via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to just 40% of capacity, The Dallas Express reported.

“We must not fool ourselves: The cut in gas supplies is an economic attack on us by (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” Habeck asserted.

The economic minister also said that rationing gas could hopefully be avoided but cannot be ruled out entirely.

“From now on, gas is a scarce commodity in Germany. … We are therefore now obliged to reduce gas consumption, now already in summer,” he said.