It still might be peak summer, but German undertakers operating crematoriums warn they’re at risk of running out of natural gas amid the unprecedented energy crunch.
Much of Germany is feeling the strain from Russia’s squeeze on NatGas’ deliveries which has worried Svend-Joerk Sobolewski, Germany’s cremation consortium chairman, according to Reuters.
Sobolewski said crematoriums are developing contingency plans for high NatGas prices and the risk of shortages.
Russian NatGas supplies have been reduced to just 20% of capacity as prices jumped 30% last week and electricity prices soared to a record, which indicates undertaker costs are getting more expensive.
Germany’s undertakers’ association shows one million Germans die each year, and about 75% are cremated. Compared with other European countries, Germany has the highest cremation rates.
The association’s head, Stephan Neuser, said electric-powered furnaces could be an option, though a more immediate solution would be reducing the average temperature of ovens from the current 850 Celsius (1,562°F) to 750 degrees Celsius (1,382°F). This represents a 10% savings on NatGas, and he added further reductions could be made but need a special permit from state authorities.
Some furnaces have been turned off to save NatGas, while others are left on around the clock. It’s a move by the industry to create more efficiencies ahead of what could be a freezing winter.
“In the event of a gas failure, we would be able to continue operating the plants that are hot … That means we could then continue to work with reduced power,” said Karl-Heinz Koensgen, who manages a crematorium in western Germany.
Sobolewski said not all of the cremation facilities can decrease NatGas significantly. If facilities experience NatGas shortages in winter, a backlog of bodies might be seen as a limited number of ovens will be operating.
“You cannot switch off death,” he explained.
Suppose Nord Stream flows remain at 20%. In that case, NatGas storage facilities (currently) at 68% full won’t be able to reach the government’s target of 95% by Nov. 1. It would create bottlenecks in the cremation industry and widespread economic turmoil could paralyze Europe’s largest manufacturing hub.
If the energy crisis worsens, Germans might have to bury their dead this winter and use firewood to heat homes.