Households face a heating crisis this winter as thousands of rural families dependent on coal now face the prospect of a doubling in per-sack prices, as well as a total ban on smoked charcoal.
With record prices for oil and gas used to heat homes, homes are now in for a third major hit as coal prices soar – and the government will push ahead with its national ban on so-called “smoky,” or bituminous, coal.
A 40kg sack of premium coal sold for €28 last winter – but fears are mounting that if coal traders are allowed to sell hard coal or smoke coal at all this winter as part of a phased withdrawal bag, there are growing fears that prices will rise to €50-55 apiece because of the consequences of the war in Ukraine.
Coal traders warned that, in the worst case, prices per sack could even reach 60 euros.
Retirees living in rural towns and villages – traditionally dependent on coal for open fires and stoves – will be hit hardest by the spiraling prices and potential supply problems.
Michael Fitzmaurice, TD of Roscommon-Galway, said the situation for rural families who depend on coal and peat for heating will be very serious this winter.
A coal importer, who asked not to be named, warned Ireland of a catch 22 situation: “If the government imposes a total market ban on smoked coal there will be major challenges and if they don’t there will be global market pressures and uncertainty about the.” Ireland’s political position will lead to a price spiral that will effectively achieve a backdoor ban for the government.”
In addition, there is uncertainty in Ireland as to whether the large coal deliveries ordered for Ireland can be sold at all this winter.
Environment Secretary Eamon Ryan has yet to clarify exactly when he will proceed with legislation to ban all smoked charcoal sales.
Mr Ryan has been an outspoken supporter of a charcoal ban for climate change and public health reasons.
He said Ireland must “follow the science” on renewable energy sources and environmental protection.
A spokesman for the department said an announcement about the proposed ban would be made next week.
“The main effect of the proposed rules will be to end the sale of smoked charcoal, which is a significant contributor to air pollution in Ireland.
“Low-smoke charcoal is already widely available for people looking for a cleaner, more cost-effective alternative to smoke charcoal.”
Many coal traders have been wary of ordering large shipments of smoke coal, fearing it may not be possible to sell supplies once they arrive.
Coal prices on international markets have skyrocketed as Russian coal supplies are now subject to EU and US sanctions.
However, global demand for coal has skyrocketed as the price of natural gas supplies has soared nearly 800 percent in less than 12 months.
Many gas-fired power plants are being supplemented on the international grid by coal-fired power plants, which were once slated for closure but can now be run more cheaply to generate electricity.
Irish traders fear large coal shipments cannot be made due to a lack of clarity in the domestic market, fearing they will be stuck with unusable stocks in the event of a coal ban.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/rural-households-and-pensioners-face-winter-home-heating-crisis-41829657.html Rural households and retirees face a heating crisis in winter