BERLIN - Germans are snapping up wood and coal, despite the arrival of Spring, with an eye on climbing gas prices and uncertainties about the effects of a prolonged war in Ukraine.
Germany on Wednesday declared an "early warning" of a possible gas supply emergency, a sign of concern about possible disruption or stoppage of natural gas flows from Russia.
"Our phones are ringing off the hook," said Erik Passow, who builds furnaces and fireplaces, adding that supply shortages were also making it difficult to keep up with orders. "People want security, because freezing isn't fun."
Despite stable gas supplies, consumers and companies have been advised to reduce their energy consumption, with Economy Minister Robert Habeck saying "every kilowatt-hour counts".
Susanne Gasden is one of the people who has ordered wood for next winter, even though she has electric heating in her home.
"I have a stove in every room, and if for some reason the gas is suddenly turned off or we have an energy shortage, at least I have the ability to remain self-sufficient," she said. "It's a bit of saving for a rainy day."
Fuel dealer Richard Koegler said people were still stocking up on coal and wood even as cold weather was on the way out, adding that even before the war in Ukraine supplies had been tight.
"They don't order because gas has become so expensive, they order because they're worried they won't get anything at all."
Markus Stumbaum, managing director of a company that specializes in housing technology, said that, while the demand for electricity-powered heat pumps has increased, he was surprised that gas had come under criticism.
"When it came to gas, I was always of the opinion that the technology definitely has a future, because people are also considering biogas or synthetic gas. But right now, of course, everyone wants to convert to a heat pump," said Stumbaum.
(Reporting by Martin Schlicht, Stefan Remter and Susanne Remter-Neumeyer; Writing by Miranda Murray; Editing by Alex Richardson)