Heating with wood pellets: why stocking up is going to be…

Heating with wood pellets: why stocking up is going to be...

For the French, heating at a reasonable price is a headache this winter. As for gas and electricity, everyone knows that the bill will increase as the price of raw materials continues to rise due to the war in Ukraine. And for those who thought they could get away with using wood pellets, a very cheap solution, it gets complicated! In fact, the prices of pellets – wood pellets – have doubled and are almost impossible to find at the moment. We explain why, and above all how to react.

Why are prices skyrocketing?

Today, the ton is trading at around 600 euros compared to 280 a year ago. Several factors lead to this price explosion:

  • A fear of scarcity. Since the war in Ukraine and the rising cost of energy, the French, worried and affected by inflation, are looking for alternative solutions. Like wood pellets, which are often a second source of heating. “From May-June, there is a much stronger demand. This rush is explained by the fear of running out and the desire to stock up just in case”, explains Frédéric Plan, general delegate of the French Federation of Fuels, Fuels and Heating (FF3C), which has 300 pellet distributors in France. As a result, from mid-August – and sometimes into mid-July – there is a shortage of stock at most suppliers. The industry had forecast a 15% increase, which it thought it could absorb, but today, orders are multiplied by five! market in tension, “there is a rise in prices”, is the law of supply and demand. Especially since deliveries from Russia, from Ukraine and Belarus, about 10% of imports of pellets to Europe, have stopped, which has contributed to the increase in price.
  • Strong increase in facilities. There is the fear of missing something, but not only! It is above all that for two years, encouraged by the government and aid for the energy transition (MaPrimeRenov’ in particular), the French rushed to boilers (+120% installations in 2021) and pellet stoves (+40% installations in 2021), a more ecological and economical solution for heating. And even local communities have gotten into it, with XXL orders! “The park is increasing too fast compared to the availability of products”, insists Frédéric Plan of the FF3C.
  • Increase in production costs. Very specifically, producing pellets has never been so expensive, due to the rise in the price of the raw material (sawdust), the cost of the energy needed to transform it, the cost of transport, etc.
  • Increase? If all these factors are real and explain the price increase, 60 million consumers explain that some distributors would abuse the amount of the increase, an “assumed” practice to deter consumers from overstocking. And therefore allow a fall in futures prices.

Will prices drop in the coming months?

There will inevitably be a pause, but “not for next winter, which will be complicated anyway”, assures Frédéric Plan of the FF3C. According to him, this should even continue to increase in the coming weeks. There could even be a shortage, “a supply deficit of the order of 5 to 15%” if the orders continue the same pace as today – as long as the weather is still good.

One element could calm things down, and prices: imports. They usually account for around 15% of French consumption. However, today, “it is a very competitive market in Europe”, with strong competition from Germany and especially from Italy. Especially since the European market has to do without Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian imports. “If this market is unlocked, then there could be a drop in prices”. Eric Vial, president of Propellet, France, the federation of players in this sector that employs 20,000 people, is more optimistic: questioned by France Bleu, he estimates that theindustry working hard, shortages must be avoided. This should lead to lower prices this fall.

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What attitude to adopt towards customers?

Avoid overstocking because, in fact, new orders arrive regularly and this attitude contributes to the increase in prices. In a press release published at the end of August, the FF3C recommended that companies first attend to customers who have chosen to heat only with pellets compared to those who have done so as an auxiliary heating source, and mainly to regular customers. Which will probably make a lot of people unhappy!

But Frédérique Plan is even more radical: if you were planning to switch to a pellet stove or boiler in the next few weeks and the estimate is not signed, “then no, wait!”.

Eric Vial advises you to wait because A drop in prices is not ruled out for this fall with the arrival of new stocks. There are also gestures to launch: “have your device repaired to reduce consumptionand above all “the most important point in terms of effects is lower the temperature inside the house“According to Ademe, one degree less represents a 7% saving.

Beware of scams!

When there is a market in tension or scarcity, there are always scammers to take advantage of the situation. And that’s true for wood pellets. Orders placed over the internet that never arrive, websites that take on a name that strangely resembles consolidated companies, that cash the check without having stock… More and more similar cases are currently returning to the FF3C. Obviously, before any order, it is necessary to check the status of the company, how long it has been in business, if it has customer reviews on the Internet. And do not hesitate to pick up the phone: there is nothing like a telephone contact to verify the existence of a company. And above all, do not pay before delivery, if you do not know the supplier!

Finally, there is a fairly extensive list of serious providers on the FF3C site from which you can select yours. As long as he can provide it.

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