The average daily temperature in the Czech Republic fell to 11.3 °C on Friday, and according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, temperatures will remain below 13 °C at least until the beginning of next week. This is the limit of the heating season. The 2022/2023 heating season has officially started, although the heating may still be switched off in the next few weeks.
September alone accounts for about three percent of the total heat consumption for heating for the entire heating season. However, it is difficult to predict what the entire heating season will look like. “Prediction of heat consumption for winter is divination from a crystal ball in September. Only in March will we see who was right with the winter forecast,” says Pavel Kaufmann, press spokesman for the Heating Association of the Czech Republic.
The demandingness of energy consumption for heating is mainly influenced by the weather, which determines the duration of the heating season. The longest heating season in the last ten years lasted 256 days, and its heating demand corresponded to 4,605 so-called degree days, which indicate the number of days when heating was used, multiplied by the difference in average indoor and outdoor temperatures.
On the contrary, the year 2018 was the least demanding for heating, when there was only 191 days of heating and the demand corresponded to 3,483 daily degrees. Last year’s heating season was one of the most demanding, with 246 days of heating. This year, there were 129 days of heating from January to May, and more will be added.
However, if temperatures rise above 13 degrees two days in a row, with the prospect of warmer weather for the following day, the heating will be interrupted. However, if it only warms up for a day, there is no point in interrupting the heating season. For this reason, the dates of the start and end of the heating season alone are not so telling.
“Mostly this happens when the heating season starts in September. In most cases, some warming will come again and the heating will be interrupted,” explains the director of the Czech Republic’s Heating Association, Martin Hájek. According to him, however, it does not look like much for the heating to be interrupted this fall.
In contrast to previous years, heating workers will have a more difficult time in the coming autumn, winter and early spring. “The supply of all possible fuels is strained. And it’s not just gas, but also coal and biomass,” explains Hájek.
11 coal-fired heating plants in the Czech Republic will be exempted from emission limits by the end of the year, due to which they had to switch from coal to gas. Thanks to the so-called emergency prevention in the heating industry, which was announced by the Ministry of Industry and Trade on Monday, September 5, heat producers can switch to alternative fuels, especially heating oil, instead of gas. This will reduce the consumption of gas, which is still in short supply in Europe.
Also thanks to the easing of the decree of the Ministry of the Environment, which allows the original emission limits to be applied in exceptional situations, the transition to gas heating plants can be avoided for the time being.
The lack of one fuel spills over into the others you try to replace it with. As soon as you run out of one fuel, you run out of fuel again.
Gas supplies for Europe are currently uncertain. A third of domestic annual consumption will be covered by liquefied gas (LNG) from overseas. Currently, a mix of American and Norwegian gas and other LNG from other continents travels to us. However, the Czechia has not taken raw materials from Russia since the end of August, as none flows through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.
However, the problem is not only in the gas. Wood and coal, which heating plants and households are currently using to replace expensive gas, can also become scarce goods.
The emergency is mainly caused by an increase in demand. “The lack of one fuel spills over into the others with which you try to replace it. As soon as you run out of one fuel, you run out of another,” explains Hájek.
For example, there are already problems with biomass supplies in Pilsen. Because there is no one to process it, take it out of the forest, so it waits and rots there. “The waste, i.e. branches from felled trees, is taken to a pile at the edge of the forest, and then you have to chip the waste and bring it to the heating plant. For that, you need technology and people, which is lacking now,” says Hájek
However, the heating plants also experienced incipient problems with coal supplies. According to Hájek, this is enough, but the core of the problem lies in complicated logistics. For now, however, it is still being determined whether there is a problem in mining as well. “We should know more in a few days,” says Hájek.
We will have to implement what they already have in Germany, which is to prioritize coal wagons over passenger transport, for example.
According to him, there is certainly a problem with the lack of wagons in which coal is transported. “They were liquidated in the past with the idea that everything would be green and coal would not be needed, and now, of course, there are no coal wagons in the whole of Europe,” Hájek describes.
The solution would be to speed up the transport, because now the wagons travel in step. “We will have to implement what they already have in Germany, which is prioritizing wagons with coal, perhaps even over passenger transport. Otherwise, it works in such a way that freight trains only run in gaps, so at night and slowly,” says Hájek.
Nevertheless, Hájek hopes that there will be enough coal during the heating season and that the heating plants will have something to heat. However, it is necessary to ensure that coal is given to those most in need. “We have relatively enough electricity, but there are heating plants that are already reporting supply problems. It needs to be solved urgently,” says Hájek, who is going to the Ministry of Transport on Friday to solve the matter on behalf of the association.