March 1, 2013, Quebec - When it comes to developing a domestic pellet market, talk is cheap and people want action. That is the message received from an array of eastern Canadian pellet producers and heating appliance vendors at the first Canadian Wood Pellet Heating Conference.
By Scott Jamieson
Held in Quebec City February 27-March 1, the first full day of conference speakers wrapped up with an industry panel session. In both the open question period and in discussions afterwards, the talk was on the need for a more comprehensive and cooperative approach to residential and commercial heat market development.
"I've been attending conferences like this in Quebec for over five years now," noted panel member Ken St-Gelais, executive director of Granules LG, a pellet manufacture north of Quebec City. "Each time the talk is about how this is a great start and there is optimism that it will result in action, but then nothing. We need concerted action to develop the market on the part of WPAC, producers, appliance makers, government – everyone involved."
St-Gelais' sentiment was reinforced by several other producers from Quebec and Ontario, who agreed that WPAC is doing an excellent job in export markets and in encouraging domestic bulk use, but that there remains a void in promoting and establishing a crucial domestic market for residential, commercial and municipal heat. "We've been focusing on ways to sell a thousand tonnes at a time, which is understandable," one producer explained. "But markets like this get developed one tonne at a time, and as an industry we're not doing that pioneering work."
Panel member William Strauss of Maine Energy Systems (MES) noted that in successful markets like Austria, a concerted carrot, stick and tambourine approach by industry and government has worked well. By using the right combination of incentives, carbon taxes, and promotion, residential pellet heat has taken off in the past 20 years. Friday's sessions will cover case studies in all these areas, including MES, hopefully providing clues to moving this file forward in a meaningful way.