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

May 28, 2021 

In this Week's Pellet Wire:

From the Director's Desk: 

5 Questions As I Pack for Louisville

Two weeks from today, the 2021 Pellet Fuels Institute Annual Conference will be over. As a result, the PFI office is in full last-minute preparation mode for the event. My focus has turned from sponsorship solicitation (thank you again to everyone that said yes), to production, including the conversations I will be having with our gathered panelists. In preparation for each panel, I like to build a deck of at least 10 questions, and sometimes 15. All told, that amounts to over 50 questions asked during the conference.

Here are the five I’m most interested in asking.

1. Have things “returned to normal” in our post-COVID world at pellet manufacturing sites? I’m reluctant to even type "COVID" anymore. Still, the pandemic was and is a business disrupter. We have all seen the EIA data and know that at least in an aggregate sense, the pandemic had little impact on production and sales in 2020, but that was largely due to herculean efforts by pellet producers and our upstream and downstream supply chain partners. Challenges still abound. The big challenge now is getting folks back to work in the environment of robust unemployment spending out of Washington D.C. States are beginning to sunset these federal monies in response to businesses who can’t compete with federal unemployment. Labor was a challenge for pellet manufacturers before COVID and it's now a real bottleneck. I will be curious to talk with producers about their ability to bring people back to work and operate their plants at full capacity.

2. Has the BTU Act made an appreciable difference in the marketplace for pellet appliance sales yet? We celebrated this policy victory at the tail end of the year but had little feel for how long it might take to make an impact on demand for wood pellet appliances. I’ll be looking forward to hearing from retailers and appliance manufacturers alike about consumer awareness of the BTU Act and how it's translating into new interest and ultimately new sales. Additionally, work continues to extend the BTU Act to commercial deployments and extend the lifetime of the program in general. Our first panel conversation with Charlie Niebling will provide a good opportunity to get a feel for that question.

3. How is the meteoric rise in demand for wood products of all types impacting wood pellet manufacturers? The soaring demand for dimensional lumber has made “above the fold” news in major papers around the country. Wood products in every category are experiencing incredible demand spikes and ultimately whatever is happening upstream in wood product manufacturing is felt by wood pellet manufacturers. Tom Plaugher, a board member from Appalachian Wood Pellets also has responsibilities on the sawmilling side of that business and has been a go-to resource for me to flesh out my understanding of wood markets and how they impact the pellet sector. Tom won’t be the only attendee with deep knowledge of the wood products sector, and I expect some great on-stage and off-stage chatter about lumber markets and fiber availability.

4. What should we make of the recent news out of the EPA and Alaska about appliance testing (see industry news section)? I’ve got quite a bit of boning up on this topic to do before we gather, but the conversations I have had about this topic make me uneasy. The good news is we’ve recently added Dan Henry, a longtime appliance guru and now a technical advisor to Travis Industries, to our agenda. Dan is all over this issue, and paired with PFI board member, Karen Smeltz, I think we’ll be able to get a good read on what is happening with appliance testing and how it might impact pellet appliance sales.

5. Can wood pellets win more market share as the Biden administration signals more opportunity for clean energy? I’ve said in Pellet Wire columns of the past that the PFI’s role is to work within the confines of state and federal initiatives to improve the position for wood pellet producers, however incrementally. The signals out of the Biden White House are increased interest and investment in clean energy. Our industry has some momentum right now with the passage of the residential aspect of the BTU Act, but if we are to expand on this policy win, we’ll have to effectively communicate the realities of our business to policymakers continuously bombarded by misinformation proliferated by a motivated anti-biomass constituency. Our marketing and communications team is already at work in this endeavor and I look forward to continuing the conversation at our conference.

Thank You to Our Current Annual Conference Sponsors


MoistTech Corp



Primary Packaging, Inc. 

SPR Packaging

Kluber Lubrication NA LP

Rethceif Packaging

Tim Portz 
Executive Director


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Industry News

EPA makes changes to wood stove certification program

The U.S EPA in April announced it is taking several actions to address concerns about the methods and manner in which new wood stoves are being tested for compliance with the 2015 new source performance standards (NSPS)... 

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Updated BTU Act introduced in House

Reps. Anne Kuster, D-N.H.; Mike Kelly, R-Pa.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; and Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, on May 14 introduced an updated Biomass Thermal Utilization Act, which aims to provide tax credits for commercial and industrial wood heating appliances...

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A Resilient Year

From weathering the coronavirus pandemic, unprecedented wildfires and passage of the BTU Act, the U.S. wood pellet industry experienced an unusual year. But despite a winter that was 7.4% warmer than normal, the U.S. domestic wood pellet industry sold more than 2.18 million tons of wood pellets, just shy of the 2.2 million tons sold in 2019, which was widely acknowledged as a  strong year for producers...

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ISO TC 238: A Year of Robust Activity

ISO TC 238 is the International Standards Organization’s Technical Committee through which numerous countries around the world are working together to develop standards for solid biofuels. While the efforts of ISO TC 238 are ongoing, historically, they have been most robust during the annual plenary and working group meetings held in the spring of each year. Last year’s plenary was cancelled due to COVID-19, and this year’s meeting is now planned as a virtual event in June...

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