Europeans are returning to wood heating for warmth


European Union leaders “opened the door” to a European gas price cap last week, but could not reach consensus on a gas price cap due to fears that such a measure could jeopardize regional supply.

Natural gas is the second largest source of energy in Europe, representing up to 70% of heating in Europe. Although gas prices are still below this year’s highs, they remain more than 200% above those of early September 2021.

In addition to supply fears, the energy crisis is exacerbating the rise in the cost of living, with Eurozone inflation hit double digits for the first time in September.

How serious is the energy crisis in Europe?

In France, the the price of wood pellets has almost doubled to 600 euros per ton compared to 2021.

According to Frédéric Coirier, CEO of Poujoulat SA, which manufactures chimney flues and wood fuels, signs of panic buying have already appeared since some customers have bought two tons of wood pellets, when less than one ton is enough. usually to power a house. for one year.

To save electricity, the Eiffel Tower, which normally lights up until 1 a.m., will be turned off at 11:45 p.m.

In Germany, where the country’s chimney sweep organizations are struggling to cope with the influx of requests to hook up new and old burners, residents are wondering about the burning of horse manure and other unusual fuels.

With fuel shortages, the citizens of Berlin felled virtually every tree in the central Tiergarten park for heating, echoing the desolation that followed World War II.

Peter Engelke, owner of a warehouse near Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, installs a new security barrier to prevent desperate individuals from stealing his cargo. The valuable asset at stake – the firewood – required an additional security barrier to secure the logs, charcoal briquettes and fuel oil; the crisis also forced Engelke to stop accepting new customers.

“We are looking at winter with great concern,” Engelke said.

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In Britain, almost one in four people were considering switching off the heating this winter according to a recent survey.

Under Prime Minister Liz Truss’ new ‘energy price guarantee’ scheme, which replaces the October price cap, an average household in England, Scotland and Wales will pay up to 2 £500 annual energy costs from 1 October until 2024.

That’s around £1,000 less than what the average household would have spent each year if the October price cap had been put into effect.

The program will work in conjunction with the Energy Bill Support Scheme, which offers a £400 energy bill reduction to each household and provides additional support to particularly needy populations.

Russian gas accounts for less than 4% of the UK’s natural gas needs, putting it in a different position to some of its European neighbours. The high costs induced by shortages elsewhere, however, have completely disrupted its energy market.

In the year to July, domestic gas costs in the UK rose by 96% and electricity costs by 54%.

Roger Sedin, head of the air quality unit at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, issued a warning about inadequate ventilation and the burning of damp firewood, saying: “We are concerned that people don’t burn everything they can get their hands on”. When individuals burn wood improperly, pollutant levels can reach extremely high levels.

The cost of firewood, which is almost entirely used as winter fuel in the small Hungarian town of Ag, southwest of Budapest, has almost quadrupled.

Kindling currently costs about half of the village’s average monthly income of $249, according to the 35-year-old nonprofit employee.

Hungary has banned pellet exports and Romania has capped firewood prices for six months. Wood stoves can take months to arrive.

Romania has set a six-month price cap on firewood to combat what it sees as “artificial increases”. During the coming winter, a third of the population will depend on wood for heating.

Romania is second in the European Union, after France, in terms of the proportion of the population that depends on wood.

In Poland, the consequences involve people burning rubbish to stay warm. The country has one of the worst air quality in Europe due to its heavy reliance on coal for heating.

Today, with the shortage of fuel and the skyrocketing cost of living, people are also burning alternatives like garbage. The government has temporarily suspended coal quality checks and plans to distribute protective masks.

According to Piote Siergiej, spokesperson for a network of environmental activists called Polski Alarm Smogowy.

“People are scared and they collect anything that can be used to burn,” Siergiej said, adding that this includess lignite, wood, peat, oats — and waste.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.comIn the featured photo: Stacked firewood. Featured photo credit: Wil Stewart.

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