Even though spring is slowly approaching with warmer weather, pellets remain our hot topic. Today, we’ll have the pleasure to learn a bit more about the situation in the Czech Republic. Our guest is Vladimír Stupavský from the Czech Pellet Cluster.
Hello Vladimir, introduce us to Klastr Ceska Peleta (Czech Pellet Cluster), its history and mission.
The Czech pellet cluster was established in 2010 as a national association to connect entities that use and need wood pellets for ecological heating. In addition to the producers and traders of pellets, it also associates companies that make wood briquettes as well as producers and traders of biomass boilers and pellet stoves.
We are very active in the professional training of installers of renewable energy solutions. Over the past five years, we have trained over 2000 installers of various renewable solutions.
Our members require three services from us: information, lobbying and promotion. Of course, we didn´t get where we are today overnight, however, we are glad that today we can have exposure and talk about pellet problems on television, in the press and other media. We also publish our own pellet magazine and manage several specialised websites. I have a good team around me that knows how to do things effectively.
As a National Licenser in Czechia, you managed to unite the local pellet actors and achieve a market share for ENplus® of over 95%. How did you succeed in convincing almost all local producers to get certified?
It was not so difficult to convince Czech companies to apply for the ENplus® certification. About 10 years ago, when I started, there was a very chaotic pellet quality system. Germany had standards, others were present in Austria, third - in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic exports more pellets than it consumes and producers themselves needed a unified system for determining the quality of the pellets. And ENplus® responded to this need.
It was much more complicated to build up a national pellet association 13 years ago. We went to the companies, trying to persuade them, and we succeeded basically only when the leaders from the field joined the Czech Pellet Cluster. Then the others followed more easily. We started with 14 companies back then while today we have over 100 members, including large international holdings. The beginning was difficult, but it paid off. You have to be able to listen to the companies, to be impartial and treat them equally, because they often need the same things - information and resources.
Source: Czech Pellet Cluster
What is your prediction for future opportunities or threats regarding pellet use in the country? Any advice you want to give the pellet producers and traders?
Before Covid and the war in Ukraine, I would probably have a lot to say, but these tragic events changed the rules of the game. The pellet market is very well developed in our country. Basically, Czech pellets are known throughout Europe and the same is true for Czech biomass boilers. Two thirds of the premium pellets are produced by international timber companies in our country, so I don't need to give them any advice. :-)
Nevertheless, I would rather draw attention to a few inconveniences I encounter. Several projects for pellet plants were cancelled because of poor business plans. Instead of focusing on the supply of raw materials, they focused on obtaining a subsidy for construction. The pellet plant was then built, but after some time management found that the operation of the production plant was unsustainable. In this case, the subsidy was rather harmful.
Other partial problems are caused by rapidly emerging and disappearing trade companies. In moments of severe price fluctuations, which unfortunately sometimes affect the whole pellet market, such companies pop up with the prospect of quick profit. But the quality of their services is below average that makes some of them to also quickly disappear. As a result, they damage the whole market and the reputation of the pellet professionals with long history.
The Czech Pellet Cluster is a very active organisation with many initiatives aiming at providing information to the end-users. For instance, sometimes you present stories of celebrities using pellets to set an example. How did all this affect the local consumers behaviour?
Marketing is a complex game, you must be able to engage, to be consistent, professional and to always offer something new. And between us, heating is not a funny or sexy service to sell from the perspective of a marketer. So you have to put in more effort. :-)
We had to think of a way how to make pellets more attractive to people. For example, we use a mascot to promote pellets in our country. It’s this insolent and cynical woman, overweight and with hair made of pellets, commenting on the political situation, energy prices, etc. ...
We also have some successful collaborations with celebrities. A magazine with a well-know actress on the cover has a better impact than if we put a pellet stove instead. It is unfortunate but this is a fact. So we reach out to these celebrities, take pictures, shoot videos, or invite them to joint meetings. We have already collaborated with several popular singers, actors and athletes in the Czech Republic. It is often difficult to organise such an initiative, but the result is worth it.
Source: Czech Pellet Cluster