Wood pellet: “shortage”, shortage, price increase… we explain the “pellet” crisis

Wood pellet: "shortage", shortage, price increase... we explain the "pellet" crisis

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Wood pellets (also called “pellets”) face a risk of shortage. Many consumers of this stove fuel have seen stocks melt and prices skyrocket. explanations.

For the many users of wood pellet stoves, the period is feared for a difficult winter. As various reports from La Dépêche du Midi have shown, many have been faced with low stocks or very high prices for “pellets” (the English term for wood pellets) in recent weeks. Can we talk about scarcity? What should we fear between now and winter? La Dépêche takes stock.

Can we talk about scarcity?

“We’re not in a shortage situation yet,” says Propellet, the National Association of Wood Pellet Heating Professionals. “We are in a situation of risk of tension.”

How are these “tensions” explained?

This year, customers requested wood pellets much earlier, before the start of 2022 production. “So we are selling stock, there are no pellets that are just produced.” In fact, the request is usually much later. “People are preparing for winter with a crazy advance compared to previous years,” explains the professional. “When the sector finds its place and increases its production capacity, there is a short delay. The supply is limited compared to the demand.”

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Second factor: every year new consumers come to the market. “The subsidized installations of stoves and boilers are advancing faster than the national capacity to produce the necessary fuels”, affirms for its part the French Federation of Fuels, Fuels and Heating. Result: Some stores are forced to limit sales because stocks start to run low. And some brands are even out of stock, as evidenced by a Weldom store in Fleurance, in the Gers: “We don’t have visibility on volume, date and prices, regrets the management, questioned by La Dépêche. We have a lot of demand in this time. If this delivery doesn’t arrive, it will be a shortage for the store.”

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How long will they last?

“When we are right on time, it is normal for there to be shocks. But the situation should ease in the coming months.” However, according to the Federation, during the winter of 2022-2023, compared to the national production capacity, the supply deficit should be between -5 and -15% in terms of volume. “This amplitude is linked to the weather: everything will depend on whether the winter is very cold or very mild.” The only solution would then be to resort to imports. But it stops because many other countries, where the situation is similar, also want wood pellets and pellets.”

“The sector is developing more and more and opening new production sites,” says Propellet. It forecasts an additional million tons spread between 2021 and 2024 and a doubling of production capacity by 2028.

Have prices increased?

Currently, the price increase is tangible: if we look at the current market, the value per ton has doubled compared to 2021. “It is the law of supply and demand,” explains Propellet. “However, it stays at an infinitely lower level than the other energies.”

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This price increase can also be explained by the increase in the cost of energy. “This does not directly affect the pellet, but rather the transport, storage, etc. Unfortunately, the entire production and distribution chain is affected.”

Are many French worried?

Between 2020 and 2021, sales of pellet stoves increased by 41% and those of pellet boilers by 120%, with 180,000 and 32,000 pieces respectively. In addition, the non-renewal of diesel appliances as of July 1 will continue to promote the advancement of appliances and especially pellet boilers that work like diesel ones since they provide domestic hot water.

“This mode of heating is hailed by consumers and by public authorities who have put in place many aids to encourage consumers to switch to it.”

What recommendations for consumers?

Propellet asks customers to be careful and behave responsibly to avoid shortages. “It is advisable to wait. Especially since, unless a tragedy occurs, the tension in prices should calm down,” says the French Federation of Fuels, Fuels and Heating.

Another recommendation: “Given the current circumstances, in the case of a stove or boiler installation project, we advise consumers to make sure upstream that a supplier can supply them.”

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