Catch up with PFI in this issue of the Pellet Wire!

January 13, 2023

From the Director's Desk: Eyeing a January Thaw, Our Existential Threat

Eyeing a January Thaw

Since assuming the role of Executive Director for the Pellet Fuels Institute, five years ago now, I have spent more time monitoring weather across the country than all of my years prior, combined. Our board and my industry mentors therein have pounded into my thick skull how tightly pellet sales and heating degree days are correlated. Pellets don’t land in burn pots unless thermostats call for more heat. It really is that simple. While I feel strongly that I have learned that lesson front-to-back, what I haven’t gotten my arms around is how quickly winter can pivot and change.

Two weeks ago, the Upper Midwest and the Northeast were recovering from a shock of arctic air and deep snow that crippled municipalities from Minneapolis to Buffalo. We all read with horror the stories of lives lost as people got stranded in cars, succumbing to brutally low temperatures and feet upon feet of heavy snow. As I write this a quick glance at the 10-day forecast for Buffalo reveals just a day or two with temperatures below freezing. The forecast in Buffalo for Thursday is currently mid-40s and rain. Yuck.

The Pellet Fuels Heating Degree Day Index up to now had illustrated an improvement over last year’s mild winter in nearly every market, with some markets showing an increase of over 20-25% in accumulated HDDs when compared to last year. As of New Year’s Eve, one market (I’m looking at you Lewiston, Montana) had even achieved the ‘long term average’ when looking at HDDs a first in the short history of the Index. In just one week those gains have been erased and Lebanon, New Hampshire is now lagging last year’s HDD pace, bringing the red ink back to the “From Last Year” column of the Index. 

Our Existential Threat

I’d ask that you give the story out of Australia included in this week’s Industry News section the 2 minutes it will take to read it in its entirety. The story is a continuation of a story I’ve been sharing in the Pellet Wire since 2018 and long before that when I was the Executive Editor of Biomass Magazine. Put simply, there is growing pushback regarding the use of wood pellets as a means of generating renewable power and the story out of Australia is a new chapter. For the first 2-3 years of my tenure at the PFI, I held the belief that because our membership largely operated in heating markets, unsupported by renewable energy subsidies or other means of support, this troubling backlash and misinformed narrative fell outside of my and our purview. That belief is becoming more and more difficult to hold on to. To 99.9% of the world, a wood pellet is a wood pellet. Distinctions regarding the efficiency of their conversion to energy products or the backstory of their fiber are of little interest to the naysayers. I wish this Australia story was the only thing that has come across my desk this week in this vein. It wasn’t. On Monday I received a draft of a resolution being considered by the Council of the European Union that hews very closely to this decision out of Australia. The copy line on the email with the document included a veritable who’s who of North America’s wood products sector. I mention to underscore that for a lot of our friends and colleagues in the wood products supply chain stateside, this is a big deal. 

Later this month our board will gather to talk about near- and long-term opportunities and threats to our business. It's hard to not include that anti-biomass and anti-combustion sentiment out there on the ‘long-term’ list. 

—Tim Portz
 Executive Director

Save the Date 2023

PFI 2022 Annual Conference


Photo of the Week:

Temp Map

January Thaw: After a promising start to the 2022-23 heating season, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting a sharp change of course. Not only are temperatures all across the pellet burning regions (a slight exception is the Pacific Northwest) of this country expected to be above normal, the likelihood is nearly certain. Wood pellet producers and retailers will have to hope that February delivers a return to kinds of winter temps that have consumers cranking up their thermostats.

Source: Climate Prediction Center

Send Us Your Photos! Help us build a collection of photos of our members, their pellet mills, and products! Send images to Tim Portz at tim@pelletheat.

Industry News

EIA Monthly Densified Biomass Report (now with September data)

As of September 2022, the monthly data collection included 80 operating manufacturers of densified biomass fuel. These manufacturers had a total production capacity of 13.28 million tons per year and collectively had an equivalent of 2,467 full-time employees.

Read Article

Heating Degree Day Data

Heating Degree Day Data Weekly Summary
Climate Prediction Center-NCEP-NWS-NOAA
Accumulations are from July 1, 2022 TO Jan 7, 2022

Read Article

Australia removes forest biomass from renewable energy program

The government of Australia on Dec. 16 announced that native forest biomass will no longer be considered as an “eligible renewable energy source” for the purposes of the country’s Renewable Energy Target.

Read Article

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