headed for a deficit this winter?

Wood energy distributors are asking the French not to buy more than is needed for heating this winter.

Faced with rising energy prices, more and more French people are investing in boilers or wood and pellet stoves. But some professionals fear that they will not be able to meet the demand for fuel for the winter.

Stéphane Demilly, senator from the Somme, expressed his concern in a written question addressed to Agnès Pannier-Runacher, Minister for Energy Transition.

“Our countrymen continue to install stoves and boilers that burn wood because of environmental subsidies, while it is not certain that they can buy wood pellets at inflationary prices, or even that there is enough fuel. to meet the needs of winter 2022”, he pointed out.

“Now, there is a bubble that needs for pellets,” complained Eric Vial, general delegate of Propellet, the national association of wood pellet heating professionals.

Avoid overstock

“There is a slight deficiency,” he admitted. A hole in the racket involved in the war in Ukraine since last year, Europe imported 3 million tons of pellets from Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.

French pellet production does not cover the country’s needs. Some are imported from abroad. But rising prices and the seizure of large quantities of pellets by big players like power station operators have made import more complicated.

To avoid shortages, distributors are looking for customers who have ordered more fuel than usual for the winter. Because always when there is a risk of shortage, the French rush to stock up.

And “to prevent those who are tempted to save more than necessary by taking from many production plants, the distributors will not get new customers”, explains Eric Vial.

A sign that the panic is beginning to gain ground, Brazeco, a distributor of wood-energy (wood pellets and logs), recorded a 30% increase in orders compared to last year, which has in a growth of two digits.

“Even during the low season, and despite a significant increase in the price of wood energy, the demand does not fall,” says the company.

“We are victims of our own success”

For many years now, energy wood producers have been in growing demand. In 2021, sales of pellet stoves jumped 50%, and 120% for boilers. The strong growth is partly linked to the post-Covid recovery, but expected by professionals. This year, Propellet expects sales to increase by 25 to 30% for stoves, and 50% for boilers.

In addition, faced with rising energy prices, some local authorities that used pellets to supplement town gas are now using them 100%.

“We’re running out of steam. We’re victims of our own success”, acknowledges Etic Vial. Many problems arose. On the one hand, the lack of semiconductors and the increase in the price of raw materials prevent the production of the device. In addition, companies lack the weapons to install them in private homes.

Deadlines explode

“The deadlines have exploded. With some exceptions, we have to wait until December or even next year in terms of deadlines. Added to this is the tension of the pellets, which pushes some people to postponing their investment or to return the heat pumps “, detailed the general delegate of Propellet.

The sector is still poised for an explosion in demand. Thanks to the opening of new factories and the increase in the production capacity of existing ones, the sector foresees the arrival of one million tons of additional pellets between 2021 and 2024, and a doubling of production capacity in 2028.

“There is a legitimate concern, but it is necessary to remain calm. As long as everyone does not buy more than necessary, everything will be fine. It is true that there is a small deficit, we must think, but it is mostly. offset by imports, and by energy sobriety”, wanted to reassure Eric Vial, adding that heating with less polluting fuel is not a reason to increase its heating by a few degrees.

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