Wood energy pellets: love them or hate them. It all depends upon your perspective and understanding. That’s why the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (the Endowment) today released two new reports on the rapidly-growing wood energy pellet industry: “The Wood Pellet Value Chain: An economic analysis of the wood pellet supply chain from the Southeast United States to European Consumers,” and “Applying Pathways to Sustainability: A case study of how hypothetical bioenergy facilities in VA and GA can increase the sustainability of their supply chains.”
“While wood pellets were invented in North America as an alternative energy fuel in the early 1970s it wasn’t until recent years that the sector became the center of controversy,” said Endowment President Carlton Owen. “Emergence of large-scale facilities with demand driven by European Union energy policy has led to development of mills producing pellets not from sawdust and wood wastes as was common with the original pellets, rather from small diameter trees like those favored for pulp and paper production.” Likewise, the manufacturing facilities are no longer cottage industries. They are much larger in size with some plants producing and exporting as much as one million tons of pellets annually.
Owen said, “We believe these reports and two earlier ones — Pathways to Sustainability: An Evaluation of Forestry Programs to Meet European Biomass Supply Chain Requirements” and “European Power from U.S. Forests: How Evolving EU Policy is Shaping the Transatlantic Trade in Wood Biomass” – will not only enhance understanding of this evolving industry but will also point to ways to ensure that the sector contributes to overall health and sustainability of America’s forests.”
The Endowment funded the reviews through its on-going collaboration with the USDA Forest Service to plumb the potential of woody biomass markets to help retain forests as forests and grow family-supporting jobs in rural forested communities.