Berlin: “Such a summer rush is unheard of. Regardless, there is a resurgence of enthusiasm for this method of heating private homes.
46-year-old Engelke, head of Hans Engelke Energie, a 100-year-old Berlin business, says the family business has benefited greatly. He and his team are enthusiastically taking orders, arranging deliveries by trucks that are fully booked through October, and prepping supplies for those coming to pick up coal directly from his warehouse.
On a hot summer’s day, he weighs and bags loose coal amidst the dust and noise of filling machines, and arranges the bags on pallets to await customers. In Berlin, he still heats 5-6,000 homes with coal, according to city officials, just a fraction of his 1.9 million homes in the city.
Engelke’s customers are often elderly, sometimes wholly coal-dependent and live in old dwellings that have never been renovated. Others are lovers of the “cozy” heat that often emanates from a splendid old ceramic stove. Engelke’s company has also diversified into wood pellets and fuel oil. He cited a phenomenon seen across Germany as winter approached: “Everyone who heats with gas but still has a stove in the house wants coal.”
“Better than cold”
Jean Blum is one of the new converts. A 55-year-old man with disheveled hair and a bushy white beard loads his 25-kilogram (55-pound) bag filled with precious black briquettes into a trailer. “I’m buying coal for the first time in years,” he told AFP. His house is equipped with gas heating, so he occasionally lights the stove, but only with wood. A surge in gas prices will make gas prices worse this fall when operators can pass on higher energy surcharges to consumers.
“It’s better than cold, even if it’s bad for you,” he says. Coal prices have increased by 30% this season, but remain cheaper than wood, which has more than doubled. After the West imposed new sanctions on Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already partially shut down German gas taps, saying that “everyone will have enough gas. I’m worried,” he added.
Black fuel is making a comeback in some aspects of Europe’s top economies. The German government had already decided to increase the use of coal-fired power plants to meet the enormous needs of several industries. But Berlin insists it will keep its promise to phase out heavily polluting energy sources by 2030, and, as Chancellor Olaf Scholz recently pledged, will usher in a “fossil fuel, and especially coal, renaissance.” Exclude.
However, as new private customers emerged from woodworking plants, production could not keep up, and many small coal merchants in the capital were short of supply. We are producing in operation,” Thoralf Schirmer, spokesman for LEAG, a mining site in the Lusatia Basin, told AFP.
The company supplies briquettes to DIY stores and fuel distributors. Production has risen 40% since January, but demand is strong everywhere and the situation is expected to remain tense at least through this winter.
Adding to the pressure is the fact that other factories serving the German market based in the Rhine Valley will stop production at the end of the year, reducing supplies. “I’m a little scared of winter,” admits the coal seller Engelke. Now people are relatively relaxed when they learn they have to wait at least two months for delivery.