September 7, 2018

In This Week's Pellet Wire:

From the Director's Desk - Committee Round-Up

There is a tree in my neighborhood that year after year is the first tree near me to show the first signs of the oncoming fall color spectacle. Today there were a handful of tiny pockets of color sprinkled in one section of the tree. Fall is upon us and I, like many of you, look forward to the mercury bottoming out of those thermostats and the resultant call for more heat from thermostats all across the pellet burning regions of this country. In the past few weeks in conversations with our members it is clear that our retail partners are building inventories and more prominently featuring pellets at their locations. As an industry the feeling was that standing pellet inventories at retail and consumer locations were low and that the inventory build-up for the 2018-19 heating season would begin earlier this year. Based on what I'm hearing, I think we were right. 

Our committees have all had active summers and are all working towards some important milestones this fall, including preparing recommendations for the PFI board who will convene November 1-2 in Indianapolis. Here are some snapshots of what PFI committees are doing on behalf of the organization: 

Membership Committee

The membership committee has been asked by the board to evaluate our current PFI dues structure to ensure that it aligns with what is happening in the industry and is the structure most likely to provide the PFI with the resources it needs to do the work its members and its board want it to do. The committee will evaluate the current dues structure and if deemed necessary offer alternative membership structures for the board's consideration at the fall board meeting. Immediately the committee identified areas of dues calculation that are arguably a little too ambiguous including how non-space heating pellet sales are treated with regard to per-ton assessments. Are the PFI's rules regarding BBQ and absorbent (pet, industrial) pellet sales clear to everyone? Look for clear rule-making regarding sales of pellets for these uses to be rolled out later this fall at a minimum. Finally, the committee is actively evaluating the various membership types to ensure that it is clear who those membership types are for and that their dues packages are appropriate. The committee is working hard to ensure that the board has a recommendation in front of them when they meet in Indianapolis.

Standards Committee

As I reported in my last Pellet Wire column, the Standards Committee is awaiting the publication of the latest (and probably amended) New Source Performance Standard and its potential impact on the PFI Standards Program or pellet standards in general. The PFI believes in quality pellet production, but the organization's official stance is that federal regulations are no place for a fuel standard. Fuel standards can and do change as production technologies and downstream appliance technologies change. To some industry observers this position might sound like simple opposition to product quality. This couldn't be further from the truth. Around the time of our last committee meeting I was approached by a member of the green building media to explain our position. I authored the following statement as a means of doing just that:

"The Pellet Fuels Institute's opposition to the inclusion of fuel specifications and requirements within the New Source Performance Standard is not a reflection of the PFI's position on fuel specifications or fuel standards. In fact, the PFI is proud to have authored the most robust wood pellet quality standard program in the world, the PFI Standards Program. However, the PFI believes that codifying a pellet standard in a federal regulation is not necessary to achieve the goals of the regulation and would only serve to freeze in place a standard that has and will continue to evolve as necessary to accommodate changes in both pellet appliance and pellet production technologies." 

Promotions and Communications

The work of the Promotions and Communications committee over the summer focused on getting our social media beta test off the ground, funded and underway. Now the committee turns its attention to the PFI website. This is a herculean task and will hinge upon some of the strategic directions the board decides upon in Indianapolis. I'm into imagery and photographs and so I'm working with the committee to complete upgrade and reboot the images on our website. Finally, the committee is committed to producing a video but has decided that the video is too important to tackle until after the fall board meeting. For the video to deliver maximum value it most adhere closely to the direction the board sets for the PFI this fall.

Conference Committee

The conference committee has been dormant since the conference in June. Fall sees this committee come back into action and an aggressive schedule has already been established of having the conference agenda built just after the New Year. We're excited about what is already planned for our 2019 conference and would like the better part of 6 months to share our excitement with our members and industry colleagues. We had a great conference in Myrtle Beach and the challenge for the conference committee is raise the (chocolate) bar in Hershey.

- Tim Portz
Executive Director

Social Media Beta Test FAQs

There's still some time to reserve your spot in the PFI Social Media Beta Test! Please be in touch with Tim as soon as possible if you're interested in signing up or learning more. 

What we're hoping to learn:

The program is being developed to efficiently enable the PFI to test a small number of pro-pellet messages with actual consumers across the pellet using geographies of the United States. Social media advertising enables us to test messages and identify receptive pellet fuels audiences while promoting the pellet option. Messages the encourage consumers to further explore wood pellets as a home heating option may include but are not limited to:

  • Economic advantage of wood pellets over other fuel options
  • Ambience of a cozy wood fire without a fireplace
  • Ease of use of a pellet appliance; no need to haul logs
  • Heat Local. Using wood pellets for home heat helps the local economy.
  • Wood pellets are an environmentally preferable, low-carbon, renewable home heat option.
  • Wood pellets play an important role in sustainable forest management.

 1. What is the ultimate goal of the sponsored content?

Sponsored content will target new social media users who may not be aware of the heating with wood pellets. Whereas a business can create posts that its followers will see, and boost the post beyond that audience to some extent, sponsored content will identify potentially receptive new audiences and target them multiple times. Sponsored content also enables us to test our ads and messages, and monitor stats like how many times our content is being seen or attracts engagement. In a recent test with a retailer in Pennsylvania, we were able to reach 30,000 Facebook and Instagram users an average of 2.5 times each.

 2. I've heard there is a cost to post sponsored content on both Facebook and Instagram. Does the cost of program cover these expenses?

Yes. The cost of the program covers both a monthly ad budget of $100 for a four-month campaign and the cost for implementing the program. The cost for the full ffour-month beta test is $1500; the pellet fuels manufacturer and retailer are welcome to split that cost in any way.

3. Will my brand have a presence on any of the sponsored ads?

This campaign is designed to raise awareness of pellet heating among receptive consumers, and to send them to a knowledgeable local expert who can guide them through the purchase of a pellet appliance. During this beta test, we will be featuring the logos and websites of the featured local hearth and patio retailer wherever possible. We encourage pellet fuels manufacturers who are sponsoring retailers to work with those retailers to highlight your brand at the point of sale as a preferred or recommended pellet fuels manufacturer.

4. Why do I need to involve a specialty hearth retailer? Why can't I just promote my brand with this beta test?

To create a new pellet fuels customer, that customer must first own a pellet appliance. With this campaign, we are seeking to introduce fresh, new consumers to the benefits of pellet heating. Hearth and patio retailers are on the front lines of selling appliances, so we want to a) introduce the concept of pellet heating to consumers and b) send them to someone who can advise them on installation.

 5. What images will be used in the sponsored posts?

We welcome all images of pellet fuels appliances and are happy to use photos supplied by the retailer. Our preference is for retailers to supply promotional photos of the products that they sell from the manufacturer. If promotional photos are unavailable, we will choose from the images that we've already collected. It's important that we feature photos of pellet appliances in an array of home environments so that viewers will be able to picture an appliance in their home.

6. My retail partner already uses both Facebook and Instagram for their business. Can they keep up with their other social media efforts while the PFI campaign is underway?

Absolutely. We enthusiastically encourage regular Facebook and Instagram activity during the campaign - both for pellet appliances and for other merchandise the retailer may carry. The more visibility, the better. We also plan to work with each retailer's social media manager to re-post some of our ad content during the campaign.

 7. My retailer would like to use this opportunity to highlight special offers for wood pellets and  pellet appliances. Is this program flexible enough to allow for that?

Certainly. We urge each retailer to provide us with a special offer for pellet appliances that we can feature in our ads. We can feature a new offer each month, or keep up the same offer throughout the season.

 8. What kind of information will I and my retail partner be able to see during the test?

We will share monthly reports that show the key stats of the campaign - including audience reach, clicks, post engagement (likes or scrolling through a slideshow, for instance), and more data.

 9. How will we measure success for the program?

Our ultimate goal is to promote the sales of pellet appliances, making progress toward Operation 100K. We'll measure success in several ways - number of people reached, engagement with our ads, and retailer leads. If we are able to replicate our initial test from this summer in each of the selected markets, we will reach 250,000 or more social media users. We will also ask our retailers to keep track of how many leads they get from Facebook or Instagram and to report these numbers.

*The social media beta program is open to manufacturer members only. 

Send Us Photos!

We're building a collection of photos of our members, their pellets mills and product. Send them to Carrie Annand at [email protected]. As we’re gearing up for pellet season, this week’s featured photo shows pellet bags ready to be loaded into a truck at a New England Wood Pellet facility. 

Become a 2018 PFI Sponsor in  September

Don't miss the opportunity to sponsor PFI to reap the benefits for the rest of the year! Sponsorship at all levels brings many perks, along with exposure for your company to the pellet fuels industry. By signing up to sponsor the association in 2018, you will reap the benefits throughout the coming year. 

The 2018 sponsorship packages options include benefits such as:

  • Company logo listed on the PFI website
  • Weekly newsletter advertising
  • Website advertising
  • And more!

PFI's membership list includes more than 100 companies, and the Pellet Wire, our electronic newsletter, is sent to close to 2,000 subscribers every week. Now is the time to become a sponsor of this organization. Visit our website to explore how you can become involved.

Follow PFI on Twitter, Friend Us on Facebook, and Connect with Us on LinkedIn 

We'd like to connect and interact with PFI members and anyone else involved in pellet fuels production! 

Here's how you can help us build our online community:

  1. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook!
  2. Encourage your colleagues and other business associates to follow us.
  3. Send Carrie Annand news or other ideas to post on LinkedIn.

Have News to Share on Pellet Wire?

We'd love to feature your company's news in a future Pellet Wire! We want to be the first to know your company's recent developments to share them with the wider pellet fuels industry.

Please be in touch with Carrie Annand with information on your company's growth, job openings, promotions, or other news. 

Join a PFI Committee

We welcome and encourage all interested PFI members to get involved in our committees. There are many opportunities to help steer the association. No matter where your expertise and interests lie, we have a committee that will suit you. Help us plan our next conference, shape our policy agenda, lead communications outreach, or grow the PFI Standards Program. Visit PFI's website for more information. 

Upcoming Industry Events

October 24, 2018: Bioenergy Day

March 14 - 16, 2019: HPBA Expo 2019

June 4 - 6, 2019: 2019 PFI Annual Conference 

Connect with PFI
Join PFI

Fuel Availability

Are you a PFI member, pellet manufacturer, or distributor that has fuel available? Email [email protected] to have your listing updated or added to the PFI website.

Industry News

Pellets from Pallets  
Biomass Magazine

The ubiquitous wood pallet is often seen hoisted by a forklift and piled high with new, shrink-wrapped goods headed to market. Pallets have become such a common sight in the world of logistics that the public doesn’t view them with suspicion, or consider them particularly controversial. 

But that changes when the discussion turns to what happens to wood pallets at the end of their useful lives, which can be more than a decade. It’s not a trivial subject. According to the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, there are 1.8 billion pallets—93 percent made of wood—in use in the U.S. every day, and 3.3 billion a day throughout Europe. Turning them into a fuel source when past the point of recycling not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but also keeps millions of tons of solid waste out of landfills each year. 

But from the U.S. EPA’s perspective, using wood pallets as a pellet feedstock is too great a risk to the environment and the public. In March 2015, the EPA published its final rule on new source performance standards (NSPS) for new residential wood heaters. The 82-page document mentions pallets just once, and that’s to list them among prohibited fuel sources for wood heaters manufactured after May 15, 2015. “The standard that the EPA put out is a problem, and I think we should get it changed, because it’s based on misperception,” says Joe O’Brien, president of Eastford Wood Fibre LLC in Princeton, Massachusetts. Eastford not only recycles wood pallets by repairing them and putting them back into service, but also uses them as a feedstock for its home heating Blackstone and Still River wood pellet labels. 

Read Full Article

With New Hampshire Biomass Supports on Hold, What about the Waste Wood?
Energy News Network

While forestry industry advocates push to overturn New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill to provide price supports for biomass plants, some experts say more widespread use of pellet stoves could help find new uses for low-grade wood products.

Sununu vetoed SB365 in June, citing concerns about high electric costs in the state, where residential rates are 50% higher than the national average. “These bills send our state in exactly the wrong direction,” the governor said in a news release.

Jasen Stock, executive director of the NH Timberland Owners Association, called the veto “misguided and misinformed.” Stock regards biomass operations as a critical component of forest management, providing a market for low-grade wood amid a decline of pulp and paper making in the region.

While Stock and other advocates, including the NH Sustainable Energy Association, also raise concerns about replacing electricity generation from the plants, a key reason for the bill was maintaining balance in the state’s wood industry.

Read Full Article

Downtown Barre Building Receives Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award
Vermont Digger

Completed in 2016, Downstreet Housing and Community Development’s four-story building on the corner of Summer Street and Keith Avenue in downtown Barre City is one of five recipients of the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award. Governor Phil Scott will be one of the award presenters at a private ceremony on August 31st.

Starting from the conceptual stage through planning and construction, the approach to this project encompassed Downstreet’s commitment to the long term sustainability of the building as an important, long-lasting, affordable housing resource for the Barre community. The completion of the building also exemplifies the importance of collaboration to Downstreet’s work; Housing Vermont co-owns the building and partnered with Downstreet on the project from start to finish.

Director of Real Estate Development, Alison Friedkin remarked, “Downstreet is thrilled to have been selected for the Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for our new office and apartments in Barre. We are proud of our work and are grateful that our commitment to building healthy homes and workspaces for Central Vermonters is being recognized.”

Read Full Article


Pellet Fuels Institute

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