In the middle of the scorching summer, many French people already have their heads in the heat of this winter. Owners of stoves, inserts or wood boilers, in particular, who multiply early purchases. So much so that many suppliers of pellet bags display messages of temporary stock shortages on their website.
This is the case for one of the Breton heavyweights in the sector, E.Leclerc – Bretagne Multi Énergies: “We saw a fairly dazzling increase in orders in May and June, which are normally relatively calm months”, observes Cathy Donval. , sales manager. “We first limited purchases to two pallets then to one and there, I blocked orders in order to try to recover some stock”, she breathes. His company still manages to offer logs, “but with difficulty. In addition, we had to stop a contract with a supplier, given the 54% increase in its prices”.
Why such a buying frenzy? “The current discourse around the risk of shortages, quotas on electricity or gas and the Ukrainian conflict undoubtedly make consumers more attentive to their stocks. They seem a little more nervous and make prudential purchases, perhaps more than they need, ”analyzes Frédéric Coirier, vice-president of the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) and CEO of the Poujoulat group. “Some customers find themselves with two or three tonnes at home, whereas the annual consumption in France, for a stove, is less than one tonne! », Annoys Eric Vial, president of Propellet, the association of professionals in the sector.
Pellet exports from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus represent 10% of European consumption.
This overconsumption has come up against a tight market since the end of last summer, with an economic recovery that has been accompanied by an overall rise in energy prices. The war in Ukraine has made the situation worse. “Exports of pellets from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus represent 10% of European consumption. France is certainly not very dependent on imports (15 to 20%) but with these fewer volumes, it becomes very complicated for French players to buy them, compared to Italy, for example, which is ready to pay no no matter what price because it consumes 3 million tonnes of pellets per year but only produces 400,000,” explains Eric Vial. Countries such as the United Kingdom, Belgium or Denmark also use pellet power stations to produce electricity.
While the quest for pellets is getting more complicated, the French stock of wood-burning heating appliances is experiencing strong growth thanks to state aid. “Individuals want to diversify their energy mix and take advantage of a pellet price that remains very competitive,” recalls Frédéric Coirier. And this, even if the price has risen sharply to approach 500 euros per ton.
“Don’t give in to panic”
Concerning log wood, the tensions would be less strong: “The offer is much more diversified, between self-production and products sold by professionals, ready to use or to dry. We have the capacity, today on French territory, to produce the necessary quantities whatever the form”, assures Frédéric Coirier.
On the other hand, a shortage of pellets for this winter is no longer a fantasy. “We don’t know where we are going. Will we have any for this winter? I don’t know,” admits Cathy Donval. The sales manager nevertheless invites “not to panic. Our interest is to deliver everyone so that everyone can warm up”.
“The situation will certainly be more tense than last year, but producers and distributors are already taking care to smooth out their deliveries so as to have product in winter”, wants to reassure Frédéric Coirier.
An increase in production of 300,000 to 350,000 tonnes of pellets is expected in France compared to last year thanks to the creation of factories and extensions of existing units, for a volume which could be increased by one million tons over three years.
Lower your temperature by 2°C
Elected officials have taken up the subject. The RN deputy Alexandre Loubet, called, in a letter addressed to the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, to “temporarily reduce the export of pellets manufactured in our country by giving priority to the French market”. “These elected officials do not know the market, retorts Eric Vial. They can fantasize as they want, over the first five months of the year, we exported less and imported more than in previous years, French producers play the game completely”.
To succeed “to pass the winter”, the president of Propellet appeals above all to the responsibility of consumers: “You have to be reasonable, not to store too much and play sobriety. By reducing its interior temperature by 2°C, its consumption is reduced by 14%. This 14%, on an annual consumption of between 2.6 and 2.8 million tonnes of pellets, would largely cover the volumes that are currently under pressure on the market”.
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