Energy crisis Firewood became scarce in Bonn and the region
Rhein-Sieg-Kreis/Bonn · Worried about a Russian gas supply freeze, consumers are looking for heating alternatives for the winter. Meanwhile, firewood has also become so scarce that fraudsters are capitalising on the fear.
"Dear customers, please understand that we are currently no longer accepting orders." On the website of the firewood supplier Kaminholz Siebengebirge, customers are already made aware of the current situation in large red letters on the homepage. Managing director Marc Schmiedel describes it as "precarious", because the supply of logs, which are purchased in the region and processed into firewood suitable for fireplaces, has come to a standstill. "Our drying kiln has been at a standstill for days," Schmiedel tells the GA.
In view of the war in Ukraine and the currently hardly foreseeable development in gas supply, consumers are increasingly turning to alternative forms of heating. "Demand is higher than ever before. People are obviously afraid that it will get cold in winter," says Rheinbach city forester Sebastian Tölle, who receives calls from interested parties several times a day. However, he no longer has any firewood to sell: "We only do our felling in winter. What we have has been booked up since March.“
Firewood suppliers keep waiting lists
In view of the Ukraine war and the associated uncertainty in the supply of gas in the coming months, consumers are increasingly turning to alternative forms of heating. At least those who already own a built-in stove do not have to be put on the long waiting lists reported by the Central Association for Sanitation, Heating and Air Conditioning (ZVSHK) in Sankt Augustin. Since the waiting time is about a year, some customers will not get a stove before winter, says a spokesperson.
Even those who still get their stoves in time are not necessarily left with nothing. Because regular customers are supplied first by the established firewood suppliers, all others may have to be prepared for a longer and, in the worst case, unsuccessful search. The demand is already so great that new customers at Kaminholz Siebengebirge are asked to refrain "from calling about this". Managing Director Marc Schmiedel explains the background to this drastic measure: "We have been keeping waiting lists for over two months, so we have now reached the end of the year. It's tough to be full from the beginning of July until Christmas, but that's the situation right now."
The increased demand is also noticeable in the price, but the Federal Association of Firewood Trade and Production (BuVBB) gives the all-clear in this respect: "There will be no astronomical price jumps, as we know them from oil or natural gas," the first chairman Klaus Egly is quoted as saying in a current press release on the supply situation. City forester Sebastian Tölle, on the other hand, fears that prices could still rise massively: "When it gets cold, people will pay any price." Timber entrepreneur Marc Schmiedel reports "only" increases in the range of 20 to 30 per cent compared to the situation half a year ago with regard to the purchase prices of logs, depending on the type of wood and quality. However, his customers would also have to bear at least part of the higher costs resulting from the high price of diesel for transport: "That's on top. So far, ready-dried firewood is still available in domestic DIY stores, but the price of a cubic metre has climbed to 180 to 200 euros, twice as high as a year ago.
Imports from Eastern Europe have collapsed
The owner of the Bonn-based company Biowarm Energie, Anatoli Schachlowitsch, says in response to a GA enquiry that the prices for firewood, wood briquettes and pellets have even (more than) doubled in some places compared to the previous year. "We are still taking new orders, but whether we will be able to serve them I don't know." Both Biowarm Energie and Kaminholz Siebengebirge primarily supply the Rhein-Sieg district, which is not only a sales market but also a source of firewood. Marc Schmiedel has been relying on regional purchasing for years and believes that he has backed the right horse in the current situation: "Many competitors get up to 70 per cent of their wood from Eastern Europe, there's nothing coming from there at the moment." For the same reason, DIY stores also have little firewood on offer at the moment.
He is not doing extraordinary business at the moment, Schmiedel affirms - the order books were full in the past, too, and his profit margin has not increased. "All we have now is the extra work with coordination." These are difficult times: In the past, it was no problem to have a truckload of a certain type of wood delivered when needed, but now that is out of the question. Ordering logs from further away has not proved successful: "We have tried and had wood delivered from the Koblenz area, but that is uneconomical. Because every kilometre of transport has to be paid for, and the vast majority of trucks run on diesel.
Heating with wood is still relatively cheap
But if you can get firewood, you can still save money, as you can with pellets. The German Energy Wood and Pellets Association (DEPV) puts the price advantage of wood pellets over heating oil for the month of June at 41.5 percent, which is roughly the same as last year (36.3 percent). Although heating with pellets has become just as expensive as heating with fossil fuels, the price difference has remained relatively stable on balance. The BuVBB nevertheless advises people to leave the stove on cold or to heat sparingly if they cannot currently get any goods from domestic suppliers. Imported wood is often of "dubious origin", namely from protected forests that are cut down for profit. Even in the case of regular, authorised logging from Eastern Europe, the customer has to consider: "The long transport route ruins the ecological balance of the wood.“
According to forestry manager Ralf Nonn from Swisttal, a stove is most worthwhile if you cut and dry the wood yourself. "There was a boom a few years ago, when many people bought a wood-burning stove and took chainsaw courses." But quite a few soon realised how much work was involved. "Then they go to the DIY store and get the ready-made wood." That is still an alternative at the moment - if you are prepared to pay for it.
Original text: Alexander C. Barth
Translation: Mareike Graepel