“There’s such a rush in the summer, everyone needs coal, we’ve never seen anything like it,” says Frithjof Engelke, a Berlin-based supplier of this underutilized fuel, which is expected to be popular again in Germany because of the gas crisis. Should worsen from autumn.
The shortage of Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine creates an extraordinary demand for this type of heating, despite all the harmful properties of using coal.
“Vacations will have to wait,” says Engelke, director of Hans Engelke Energy, a century-old family business.
Now you need to place orders, organize deliveries – you already have deliveries scheduled until October – and prepare the product for direct buyers in your store.
In Berlin, 5,000 to 6,000 homes are still heated by coal, making up a tiny fraction of the 1.9 million housing stock, the local municipality points out.
They are usually elderly, sometimes completely dependent on this fuel and live in old houses that have never been renovated. Or lovers of the intense heat emanating from old stoves.
But this year, new customers have come “in droves,” says Engelke, whose small business sells pellets (fuel made from granulated wood) and fuel oil.
Now, “those who use gas, but still have a stove at home, want coal”, a phenomenon that, according to him, is widespread throughout Germany.
‘Resurgence’: Coal Boom in the Country
The German government decided to increase the use of power plants to meet the enormous energy needs of its industry. Lack of electric heaters.
Despite this, Chancellor Olaf Scholes has announced that he will not abandon his goal of phasing out this polluting energy by 2030 and rejects “the resurgence of fossil fuels, especially coal”.
But with the appearance of these new private customers, it is difficult to respond to the high demand and many small coal traders in the capital have nothing to sell. “We are producing at full capacity in the summer, seven days a week, with three shifts,” Thorolf Schirmer, a spokesman for LEAG, based in the Lusatian mining basin (in eastern Germany), told AFP.
Another plant supplying the German market in the Rhine basin will shut down production later this year, further reducing supplies at a time when Vladimir Putin has already partially cut off the gas pipeline to Germany.
“I’m a little afraid of winter,” admits Frithjof Engelke. These days, he says, people are more relaxed when they find out that they have to wait at least two months to get an order. “Things are different when it starts to get cold outside,” he says.