We continue our tour around Europe and today we have the pleasure to hear from another ENplus® National Licenser. Our guest is Matthew Goodwin from the UK Pellet Council who shares with us the latest news from the pellet market in the United Kingdom.
Hello Matt, tell us when and why the UK Pellet Council became ENplus® National Licenser.
The UKPC became the ENplus® National Licenser in early 2014 in response to ongoing issues with poor quality wood fuel. At that time I was running a biomass installation company and we spent a substantial proportion of our time dealing with issues caused by either poor quality wood pellets or poorly trained delivery drivers.
Before the widespread adoption of the use of ENplus® pellets, the frustration was that there was no standard against which the pellets could be measured, and anyone was able to deliver wood pellets, even if they had only ever delivered agricultural feed before. The ENplus® scheme brought a level of professionalism to the industry we had not seen before and enabled the market to grow.
Lately, many British traders get certified. Why is that? What is happening in the pellet market?
Following discussions with the UK Pellet Council during the last few years as well as ongoing concerns over the impact of poor-quality fuel on emissions the UK Government amended the legislation relating to its highly successful incentive scheme, the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI). This change, which was effective from 1st April 2022, means that anyone using wood pellets who wishes to claim RHI payments must now use ENplus® A1 pellets. As the vast majority of users of wood pellets in the UK claim RHI payments, this has led to a number of previously uncertified companies selling wood pellets becoming ENplus® certified to ensure that they are able to continue trading, resulting in 17 new companies becoming certified during the last eight months.
Overall, what is the share of the ENplus® certified pellet traders and producers? Do you expect more applications for certification in short-term period?
The UK premium pellet market is dominated by the ENplus® scheme. It represents a little over 600,000 tonnes per annum, over 95% of which is ENplus® certified, and the recent surge in certifications should mean that this will now be almost 100%. However, this trend may not continue. Due to the potential severe short shortages following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine earlier this year, there is serious concern that at a time when supply is tightening, limiting consumers to only use ENplus® A1 pellets will exacerbate the situation.
The UK government is therefore undergoing a stakeholder engagement process to determine if the requirement to use ENplus® A1 pellets should be temporarily suspended for a period of twelve months. This engagement process finished on 11th September and, although at the time of writing, the result of the engagement has not been publicised, it appears likely that the suspension will happen which will remove the urgency for remaining uncertified companies to apply for certification.
What do the local consumers know about ENplus®? Do they value the certification?
In all honesty, most UK consumers know nothing else. Those who had a wood pellet boiler prior to the widespread adoption of the ENplus® certification scheme in the UK will appreciate it, but most systems in the UK were installed when ENplus® was really the only choice. As the National Licenser, we have publicised the benefits of the ENplus® scheme, and of course, when occasionally customers do have an issue and need to contact the UKPC they can see the benefits, but most customers just enjoy using high quality wood pellets.
Do you believe wood pellets and biomass, in general, will play important role in the green transition in your country or the situation is too dynamic to predict?
Perhaps the one benefit of the current tightness in the market is that the UK government is actively engaging with us as an industry. I have a video call with members of the government’s Business Department on a fortnightly basis, and UKPC staff escorted government personnel around a number of production facilities over the summer. This increased engagement is a positive development and I believe that, for the first time, there are people in government who genuinely understand our industry and the benefits it provides – both to the environment and the rural economy.
However, I think we are at a tipping point. We have a new Prime Minister and a new Secretary of State for Business & Energy. If on taking office, he is faced with a winter of care homes, hospitals, businesses and his constituent’s homes going cold because they are unable to buy pellets, the case will become a lot harder to make that wood pellets are a reliable and economic heating fuel. All our member companies are therefore intent on ensuring that the industry can meet the demands placed on us.