German gas industry lobby Zukunft Gas on Monday pegged annual national usage of natural gas at 866.2 terawatt hours (TWh), down 13.6% from 2021, adding that gas procurement remains the top priority.

Gas accounted for 13.3% of power generation and half of home heating in the country with a population of 84.3 million, the group's statistics showed.

The drop in gas usage came as Germany responded to sharply lower gas exports from Russia in retaliation against Western opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.

The lower usage reflects consumers' discipline as well as benign weather, according to the lobby, which represents utilities, traders and pipeline operators including Uniper , Wintershall Dea and VNG.

The role of gas in primary energy supply amounted to 23.8%, second only to mineral oil's 35.2%, Zukunft Gas Managing Director Timm Kehler said.

"The crisis forces us to rethink gas. Our efforts to decarbonise and transform have received a new impetus."

Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Green Party has made clear that new gas infrastructure needs to be what is technically called "hydrogen-ready".

Germany's multi-layered gas strategy includes a focus on alternative origins, while a new power plant and market strategy will be presented in the first half 2023.

Floating terminals have been installed to receive liquefied natural gas (LNG), and Habeck is nurturing plans to build gas-fired power capacity of around 15 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, to replace the planned end of coal and nuclear energy.

Gas is vital to complement intermittent renewables in power generation, but investors are hesitant and need incentives, Kehler said.

Gregor Pett, a senior market analytics official at Uniper, said would-be LNG suppliers to Germany needed contracts stretching beyond 10 years to bite. (Reporting by Vera Eckert; Editing by Miranda Murray and Shounak Dasgupta)