Industry’s Adolescence is Behind Us

The wood pellet industry has doubled in the past five years, and Pellet Mill Magazine's executive editor, Tim Portz, says the next five years will be defined by the industry's ability to grasp the global opportunity that lies in front of it.
By Tim Portz | January 19, 2017

Perhaps it has to do with the changeover of the calendar, but it feels like we’re at the dawn of a new era in the wood pellet industry. One of the last news items published in 2016 on our Biomass Magazine online news outlet was a report from RISI that the industry had doubled in the past five years. Clearly, the past five years have been eventful in the industry’s history, and 2011 to 2016 will be remembered as the era of the rise of industrial-scale pellet production and use. Throughout this issue are instances of companies, trade groups and certification bodies turning the page and looking ahead to a new era in the industry. Our news section finds signs of industry consolidation, completed construction and the first iteration of the Energy Information Agency’s wood pellet production tracking efforts. After five astonishing years, the wood pellet industry, it can be said, is through its adolescence.

The next five years, then, will be defined by the industry’s ability to grasp the global opportunity that lies in front of it, and no less importantly, the world’s interest in deploying even greater quantities of low-carbon power and heat.

Without question, one of the priorities for the next half-decade is to make plain to policymakers, environmental nongovernmental organizations and the broader energy community that wood pellets can demonstrably help countries achieve their carbon reduction goals. I’d like to offer my personal thanks to incoming Sustainable Biomass Partnership CEO Carsten Huljus for his candor in an interview conducted for this issue. By his own admission, the SBP has been through some growing pains and Huljus addresses the industry discontent and offers his vision for the certification scheme’s next chapter. If our industry is going to continue experiencing growth in Europe, a program that harmonizes the sustainability requirements of existing and emerging pellet buyers must take root and win widespread recognition and acceptance.

Any industry that doubles in five years is bound to attract new market participants. Associate Editor Katie Fletcher’s feature is the continuation of our three-year effort to catalog pellet production from producers across Europe. Fletcher found that while nascent, pellet production is growing rapidly in Poland, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary and Slovakia. It is difficult to imagine the industry doubling again by the end of 2021, but it doesn’t seem likely that market growth will sunset with the industry’s teen years. Instead, the industry seems poised to evolve into a mature, globally established energy player.

Tim Portz
Vice President of Content & Executive Editor
tportz@bbiinternational.com