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Global Economy

When there is no cheap coal in Poland

"Ekogroszek" – organic peas: That's the name of the popular cheap charcoal from the dealer around the corner in Poland. They are called peas because they are rather small pieces of leftover coal, low in sulfur and therefore environmentally friendly, as sellers claim. For years, Polish environmentalists have been fighting unsuccessfully against the prefix "eco".

Anxious question about next winter

Energy expert Daniel Czyzewski calculates that two million households in Poland still heat with coal stoves. And: Russian coal burns in three quarters of these furnaces – or rather it burned there. Because: "Suddenly about eight million tons of coal disappear from the market," said Czyzewski on TVN. The reason is the import ban on coal from Russia, which the Polish government imposed even before it became binding across the EU as part of the Russia sanctions.

Since then, many people with stoves have been asking the anxious question: what will happen in winter? Not everyone grabbed it in early summer like this internet creative from Upper Silesia, who uploaded his ultimately successful coal purchase on the web. He had previously – apparently unsuccessfully – called several local coal dealers, but then found what he was looking for on the Internet. "I never thought that five tons of coal could bring so much happiness. When I was a child, Santa Claus brought coal to naughty children – if he brought me some today, I would consider it an honor and not a punishment," he said.

If the man really comes from Tychy in Upper Silesia, as he says, then he's actually sitting on a lot of coal that will last for another 200 years, as President Andrzej Duda once said with a view to the domestic deposits. But the good locations have long since been exploited, and many mines have been closed due to a lack of competitiveness. And the hard coal that is still being mined is needed by the Polish charcoal piles to produce electricity.

Arranged maximum price could come to nothing

Finding alternatives to Russian coal imports is not that easy, explains energy expert Czyzewski. "There are some top coal suppliers, but they are pretty far away: Australia, Indonesia, the USA, South Africa," he says. "There are European ports, but wholesale prices there are approaching PLN 2,000 per tonne, plus transport and distribution costs."

And exactly here lies the problem. For the government was keeping an eye on the oven-dwellings; So they decreed by law a maximum price for coal that end users should pay: almost 1000 zloty, limited to three tons per household. She promised dealers a subsidy of another 1,000 zlotys if they participated. But the purchase prices have already risen to such an extent that retailers would make a loss if they took part. And because many customers are waiting to see what happens, many will soon have to buy coal at the same time: high demand would then meet poor supply.

"Poland didn't prepare enough for the situation. The government overslept it and is now trying emergency solutions," says Czyzewski. The subsidy program should be readjusted on Monday, according to Warsaw, where bottlenecks are now being admitted. The state energy giants were also instructed to purchase large quantities of coal and pass them on cheaply. But in the end someone has to pay for it. And: Experts doubt whether enough coal can be procured in the few months until the heating season.

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