Wood pellets (also called “pellets”) face a risk of shortage. Many consumers of this stove fuel have seen stocks melt and prices soar. Explanations.
For the many users of wood pellet stoves, the period is in fear of a difficult winter. As various reports from La Dépêche du Midi have shown, many have been faced with a shortage of stocks or very high prices for “pellets” (the English term for wood pellets) in recent weeks. Can we talk about a shortage? What should we fear from here to winter? La Dépêche takes stock.
Can we talk about a shortage?
“We are not yet in a situation of shortage”, assures us Propellet, the National Association of Professionals in Heating with Wood Pellets. “We are in a situation of risk of tension”.
How can these “tensions” be explained?
This year, customers requested wood pellets much earlier, ahead of the start of 2022 production. “We are therefore selling stocks, there are no pellets that have just been produced”. Indeed, usually, the request is much later. “People are preparing for winter with a crazy advance compared to previous years”, explains the professional. “By the time the sector finds its feet and increases its production capacity, there is a short lag time. Supply is limited compared to demand.”
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Second factor: new consumers arrive on the market every year. “The subsidized installations of stoves and boilers are progressing faster than the national capacity to produce the necessary fuels”, affirms for its part the French Federation of Fuels, Fuels & Heating. Result: some stores are forced to limit sales because stocks are starting to drop. And some brands even find themselves out of stock, as evidenced by a Weldom store in Fleurance, in the Gers: “We have no visibility on the volume, the date and the prices, laments the management, questioned by La Dépêche. We have a lot of demand at the moment. If this delivery does not arrive, it will be a shortage for the store.”
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How long will they last?
“When we’re just in time, it’s normal for there to be jolts. But the situation should smooth out over the coming months”. However, according to the Federation, over the winter of 2022-2023, compared to national production capacity, the supply deficit should be between -5 and -15% in terms of volume. “This range 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 is held back because many other countries, where the situation is similar, also want wood pellets and pellets”.
“The sector is developing more and more, and is opening new production sites”, assures Propellet. It provides for an additional 1 million tonnes spread between 2021 and 2024 and a doubling of production capacity by 2028.
Have the prices increased?
Currently, the price increase is tangible: if we look at the current market, the value per tonne has doubled compared to 2021. “It’s the law of supply and demand”, explains Propellet. “However, it maintains itself 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 transport, storage etc. Unfortunately, the entire production and distribution chain is affected”.
Are many French people concerned?
Between 2020 and 2021, pellet stove sales increased by 41% and pellet boiler sales by 120%, with 180,000 and 32,000 pieces respectively. In addition, the non-renewal of oil-fired appliances from July 1 will continue to boost the progress of appliances and in particular pellet boilers which operate like oil-fired boilers since they provide domestic hot water.
“This mode of heating is acclaimed by consumers and by the public authorities who have put many aids in place to encourage consumers to convert to it”.
What recommendations for consumers?
Propellet calls on customers to be careful and behave responsibly in order to avoid shortages. “It is advisable to wait. Especially since, unless tragedy occurs, the tension on prices should calm down”, says the French Federation of Combustibles, Fuels & Heating.
Another recommendation: “Given the current circumstances, in the event of a stove or boiler installation project, we advise consumers to ensure upstream that a supplier can supply them.”