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Pellets industry discusses current legal framework and market outlook

Some 250 attendees from 27 nations flocked to Munich to join international experts from the pellets industry in discussing global markets, current framework conditions, the ENplus certification as well as the efficient and sustainable production of pellets.

For the 14th Pellets Industry Forum and ENplus-Conference, representatives from the international pellets industry met for the first time in Munich – right at the heart of the world's biggest market for the pellets industry, Europe. After all, no region in the world produces and burns as many wood pellets as Europe. In Italy alone, over 2.2 million pellet stoves are now heating homes, with 200,000 new systems adding to this figure every year according to estimates by Annalisa Paniz from the Italian association AIEL (Associazione Italiana Energie Agroforestali). The second largest European market for pellet stoves is France, where over 90,000 units were sold in 2013 and 2014, respectively. For Germany, the German Wood Fuel and Pellet Association (DEPV) puts the market volume of pellet heating systems at over 40,000 for 2015. Manufacturers and industry associations therefore expect the European market to remain stable, or even grow.

Although the pellets industry, and also the entire heating market, saw sales fall over the last two warm winters, experts believe the signals point to long-term growth across Europe. For example, the revamped market incentive program (MAP) for renewable heat should give the German market a tangible boost. Other European markets too are also picking up. Since the introduction of a heat tariff for private heating systems using renewable energy by the British government, the number of newly installed biomass heating systems each year has increased from 275 to 5,400. In Austria, too, both the central and state governments have raised subsidies for replacing fossil heating systems with pellet heating systems – the federal subsidy alone, for example, has risen from €1,400 to €2,000.

Legal framework conditions shaping the market

As is the case with state subsidies, legal framework conditions shape the market, both now and in the future. Although the energy efficiency label for biomass boilers is not being introduced in Germany until 2017, manufacturers and experts have already expressed skepticism on the matter. They believe the label is of little help to consumers in terms of determining economic viability and eco-friendliness, particularly when drawing a comparison between various energy sources. Direct customer contact and advice from tradesmen will therefore play an even more important role in the future, according to Dr. Alexander Weissinger from the company KWB – Kraft und Wärme aus Biomasse GmbH. This is especially true given that the energy efficiency label will not be limited to individual devices. Tradesmen and installation engineers must create what are known as combined system labels for complete heating systems. Pellet boiler manufacturers must therefore provide additional support to their tradesmen partners through training and resources in the future.

Second stage of the first Federal Immission Control Ordinance partly under fire

There was a heated debate on the more stringent requirements of the second stage of the first Federal Immission Control Ordinance. This is not to say that wood boiler manufacturers oppose the introduction of more stringent emission limits. Type tests have shown that emissions from high-quality wood and pellet boilers already fall below the threshold values to be introduced with the second stage, according to Martin Ecker, Managing Director of HDG Bavaria GmbH. He also explained that measuring the emissions in the field and demonstrating compliance with the emissions by having them measured by a chimney sweep represent quality characteristics for the product. However, Martin Ecker believes the main problem is that when the chimney sweep measures the emissions in practice, a variety of unpredictable factors such as fuel quality make it difficult to replicate the operating and measurement conditions of the type test. It is therefore important, according to Ecker, to ensure reliable framework conditions for practical measurements on site that will be applied consistently throughout Germany.

More efficiency in pellet production

As well as market developments and framework conditions, attention was also given this year to energy efficiency in production. This topic is not only aimed at ensuring economic viability, but also at meeting legal requirements, in Austria for example. Gerald Kreuzhuber from Mühlböck Holztrocknungsanlagen GmbH presented a new heat recovery system for belt drying equipment that can be retrofitted. This means less dust is emitted and thermal energy consumption during chip drying is reduced by 40 to 60%. An air-cooled condenser for flue gases, presented by Roger Stahel from IS SaveEnergy AG boosts thermal efficiency during production by 40 to 50%.

Certified quality: the ENplus-Conference

This year, the German Pellet Institute (DEPI) organized an ENplus-Conference at the 14th Pellets Industry Forum for the first time. Here, national and international experts shared information about the development, implementation and marketing of the ENplus certification in German-speaking countries. The certification introduced by the DEPI covers the entire supply chain from manufacturing to delivery to the end customer, ensuring reliable quality and full transparency. In addition to advances in ENplus certification and current campaigns in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the showcasing of the new ENplus handbook also attracted attention. “The main changes concern the switch to the limits set out in the new international quality standard for pellets (ISO 17225-2) published last year. It was also necessary to adapt the system to new business models in pellets trade,” explained Jakob Bosch, specialist spokesperson at DEPI.

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