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Making a Pellet Heat Market

Pellet industry stakeholders have long wondered why this wonderful heating option is so slow to develop in Canada. There are several reasons, but first let’s back up a little.


June 5, 2013
By Pierre-Olivier Morency

Pellet industry stakeholders have long wondered why this wonderful heating option is so slow to develop in Canada. There are several reasons, but first let’s back up a little.

In the article “Pellet Awakening” published in the last issue of Canadian Biomass, the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) underlined that with a target as low as 3% of the non-gas heat market in Canada, we could create an annual market for 2,279,000 tons of wood pellets worth nearly $570 million. This realistic target for heating our homes, our businesses and our institutions would assure a vibrant and prosperous industry for years to come. Moreover, it would improve the Canadian economy with little investment.

At the first Canadian wood pellet heating conference held in Quebec City in February, stakeholders agreed that pellets are a credible energy alternative to such conventional heating sources as oil, gas or electricity. Although it may be counterintuitive to see pellets – wood sometimes seen as old-fashioned –  as a fuel of the future, this heat source brings many benefits. In addition to being sustainable, efficient and comfortable, especially with the high-tech equipment now available, pellet heating is an economically and socially viable solution. It brings cost efficiencies, creates jobs and improves Canada’s trade balance.

Moreover, wood pellet heating means opting for a renewable energy source, and thanks to modern appliances, helps maintain air quality and minimizes emissions of fine particles and pollutants. Choosing pellets helps reduce the consumption of fossil fuels and contributes to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. It means choosing price stability, as wood pellets have enjoyed the most stable market price of all heating fuels in the last two decades. This is an intelligent use of wood waste produced locally and it is a fuel that supports the regional economy and ensures Canadian energy independence. We have made and heard these arguments many times.

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Why the delays?
So why is the Canadian market so slow to explode? Well, we are at the beginning of a movement; it’s as simple as that! Quite frankly, I see that this open window brings tremendous opportunity along with the challenges. Just as many European countries faced with challenges did decades ago, stakeholders of the Canadian pellet industry must now take action and work together. And by “working together,” we mean all together – raw material suppliers, pellet producers, equipment manufacturers, transport specialists, sellers, heating specialists and technicians, and obviously, our local politicians. Why? It is clear that in the context in which our governments advocate for reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, and to fight climate change, they must be informed and involved. This is especially true if we are talking about the development of our local economies. As we have seen in Europe, the wood pellet heating market can benefit from the implementation of carbon-reduction policies and from the setting of renewable energy targets.

Based on the experience and advice from experts in areas that have succeeded in developing local pellet heat markets, synergy between government and stakeholders combined with legislative and fiscal or financial support is the kick-start we need to make the difference. To increase the credibility of our industry and to ensure product quality, we also need a process of verification and certification. Ditto regarding the heating systems to assure ultra-low emission of fines with world-class emission and efficiency standards.

Our mission is to spread the message that wood pellet heating is an environmentally friendly option: socially acceptable, and most importantly, very economical. With an efficient promotion and a great product to deliver to the customers, we should see results. The 3% target is realistic, and WPAC will be a partner to help you along the way.


Pierre-Olivier Morency is the director, market access and promotion, 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. He can be reached at pierre-olivier@pellet.org.


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