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Italy’s Increasing Pellet Demand

Here are five fun facts about Italy


March 29, 2012
By Gordon Murray

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Here are five fun facts about Italy:

  • Rome is farther north than New York City
  • The average Italian consumes 26 gallons of wine per year.
  • Italy did not become a country until 1861.
  • Italy imports over 75% of its energy.
  • Italy is the world’s fastest growing market for residential wood pellets.

I was recently in Italy for a Canadian wood pellet trade mission and attended the International Pellet Forum in Verona where I noticed that this country presents a great opportunity for Canadian wood pellet producers.

To date, Canada has exported pellets primarily to Belgium, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which primarily use them in electrical power generators and co-fire with coal. However, Italy is an entirely different kind of market, where they are used almost exclusively for heat in homes, commercial enterprises and institutions. Most pellets are sold in 15-kilogram bags with very little bulk distribution, mainly for commercial enterprises such as hotels and institutions (hospitals and schools). Canada’s first year exporting to Italy had only 10,000 tonnes shipped, which increased to 40,000 by 2011.

Forty-eight percent of Italy’s energy is used for heat and the country aims to have 17% of that from renewable sources by 2020, up from 6.5% in 2010. Solid biomass is expected to make up half, with solar, geothermal and heat pumps providing the rest.

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In 2012, Italian wood pellet consumption is expected to reach 1.9 million tonnes and continue to increase at a rate of 400,000 tonnes per year, with only a small fraction produced domestically. From a peak of 750,000 tonnes in 2007, Italy now produces just 550,000 tonnes annually, 29% of its 2011 consumption.

Italy would produce more pellets if not for competition for fibre by panel-board industry and other biomass sectors. Italy produces 550,000 tonnes of pellets from just nine million hectares of forest – a rate of 61 tonnes per 1,000 hectares – whereas Canada produces 1.5 million tonnes from 397 million hectares, a rate of just four tonnes per 1,000 hectares. If Canada could reach the same production rate, it would produce 23 million tonnes of pellets per year.

Because Italy produces just a small fraction of its pellet needs, the country’s imports have escalated from 472,000 tonnes in 2009 to 1.2 million tonnes by 2011. Italy imports from:

  • Austria    32%
  • Eastern Europe    26%
  • Other EU countries    19%
  • Germany    13%
  • France, Spain and Portugal    5%
  • Non-European countries    4%
  • Canada    1%

In 2011, an estimated 188,000 stoves and 20,000 pellet boilers were sold in Italy. Its market distribution is about 90% stoves and 10% boilers, with the rest of Europe split 50/50 at 300,000 units of each sold annually. Therefore, Italy accounts for almost two-thirds of European stove sales.

Here are a few more facts about the Italian pellet market:

  • EN Plus certified pellets are gaining market share.
  • Italians prefer light coloured pellets.
  • Austrian exporters to Northern Italy are delivering bagged product to distributors for 220 euros per tonne in winter and 190 euros per tonne in fall and spring.
  • Canadians have exported bags in containers and bulk shipments, whereas Italians only use bagged pellets, a measure that has proven more cost effective for them.
  • Canadian exporters have reported success in selling to two companies – Adriacoke and Abellon. Both companies have bagging operations and extensive distribution networks, but there are other interested importers.
  • It is likely unwise to export to more than two or three Italian customers, as exporters run the risk of multiple distributors competing to sell the same product to the same end consumers, thus driving prices down.

It is clear that the Italian market presents a very good opportunity for Canadian wood pellet exporters and a means of diversifying the risk of being overexposed in the western European power markets.


Gordon Murray is executive director of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada. He encourages all those who want to support and benefit from the growth of the Canadian wood pellet industry to join. Gordon welcomes all comments and can be contacted by telephone at 250-837-8821 or by e-mail at gord@pellet.org.


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