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 since the price of raw materials continues to soar due to the war in Ukraine. And for those who thought they could get away with using wood pellets, a very economical solution, it gets complicated! Indeed, the prices of pellets – wood pellets – have doubled and they are almost impossible to find at the moment. We explain why, and especially how to react.
Why are prices soaring?
Today, the tonne is trading around 600 euros against 280 a year ago. Several factors lead to this price explosion:
- A fear of scarcity. Since the war in Ukraine and the rise in the cost of energy, the French, worried and affected by inflation, are looking for fallback solutions. Like wood pellets, which are often a second source of heating. “Since May-June, there is a much stronger demand. This rush is explained by the fear of running out and the desire to store 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 mid-July – there are stock shortages in most suppliers. The sector had anticipated a 15% increase, which it thought it could absorb, but currently, orders are multiplied by five! And as in any market in tension, “there is a rise in prices”, it is the law of supply and demand. Especially since deliveries from Russia, from Ukraine and Belarus, about 10% of pellet imports into Europe, have stopped, which has contributed to the price increase.
- A sharp increase in installations. There is the fear of missing out, but not only! It is above all that for the past two years, encouraged by the government and aid for the energy transition (MaPrimeRenov’ notably), the French rushed to boilers (+ 120% installations in 2021) and pellet stoves (+ 40% installations in 2021), a greener and more economical solution for heating. And even local communities have gotten into it, with XXL orders! “The park is increasing much too quickly compared to the availability of products”, insists Frédéric Plan of the FF3C.
- Rising production costs. Very concretely, 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.
- A raise? If all these factors are real and explain the rise in prices, 60 million consumers explains that some distributors abuse the amount of the increase, a practice “assumed” to dissuade consumers from overstocking. And therefore allow a fall in futures prices.
Will prices go down in the next few months?
There will inevitably be a lull, but “not for the coming 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 follow the same rhythm as currently – while the weather is still good.
One element could calm things down – and prices: imports. Usually, they represent around 15% of French consumption. However, today, “it is a highly disputed market in Europe”, with strong competition from Germany and especially Italy. Especially since the European market has to do without Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian imports. “If this market unlocks, then there could be a drop in prices”. Eric Vial, president of Propellet, France, the federation of players in this sector which employs 20,000 people, is more optimistic: interviewed by France Bleuhe believes that thehe industry working hard, shortages should be avoided. This should lead to lower prices this fall.
What attitude to adopt for 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 serve customers who have chosen to be heated only with pellets compared to those who have made it a source of auxiliary heating, and primarily regular customers. Which is likely to 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 don’t do it, wait!”.
Eric Vial advises him to wait because a drop in prices for this fall cannot be ruled out with the arrival of new stocks. There are also gestures to put in place: “have your device serviced to reduce consumption” and above all “the most important point in terms of effects is to lower the temperature inside the house“According to Ademe, one degree less means 7% savings.
Beware of scams!
When there is a market in tension or shortage, there is 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 well-established companies, which cash the check without having any stocks… More and more similar cases are currently going back 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 your 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 suppliers on the FF3C site from which you can select yours. As long as he can supply you.