FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German importers of hard coal for power generation plants and steelmaking have found new supply sources, enabling them to end reliance on Russia after a European Union ban, their association said on Friday.
"Traders have found new focal points: United States, South Africa and Colombia," industry association VDKi said in a statement.
Between January and October 2022 Russia still accounted for a leading 34% of hard coal volumes imported by Germany, data presented by VDKi showed. That reflected Russia's role as a major supplier before the EU introduced a ban on Russian coal imports last August amid sanctions following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The United States accounted for 20% of imports in the 10-month period, followed by 15% from Colombia, 14% from Australia and 7% from South Africa, the data showed.
When the EU ban on Russia was imposed, there was concern about how the bloc would fare in the face of dwindling supplies of Russian gas, raising fears of related heat and power crunches, especially in winter.
So far, however, those concerns have proved unfounded.
Coal burning was revved up to help bridge possible shortfalls of gas in industry and power generation, among other measures, and the winter has been mild so far.
Coal now needs to be recognised as a back-up option for years to come, not just for one or two winters, said VDKi Chairman Alexander Bethe.
This was needed to assure logistics companies they were right to revive investment plans shelved prior to the Ukraine war when a quicker transition to renewable energy was on the cards.
"There is no way around coal as a pillar of energy supply," said Bethe.
Hard coal imports into Germany last year amounted to 43 million tonnes, 4.7% more than recorded in 2021, preliminary VDKi data also showed.
Out of the total, 30 million tonnes were steam coal for electricity plants, up 11.7% year-on-year, and 11 million tonnes were coking coal for steelmaking, down 7.3%.
The remainder, 2 million, was coke, another steelmaking component, falling 15% from 2021.
(Reporting by Vera Eckert, editing by Susan Fenton)