Wood pellet technology made its debut during the oil energy crisis in the 1970s when alternatives to fossil fuels were sought. Wood pellet making technology essentially came from the adaptation of animal feed pellet lines to woody materials. Europe, in particularly Sweden, were pioneers in the development of wood pellets. Sweden, due to its prominent timber industry and its willingness to be energy independent, designed the first operational plant in Mora and Vårgårda in the early 1980s. With the price of oil recovery, the wood pellet alternative was considered less interesting until the 1990s. However, with rising environmental concerns and worries about fossil fuel consumption, wood pellets started being considered a reliable and concrete alternative across Europe. Since then, wood pellet production and consumption has shown continuous growth which accelerated in the 2000s, making the EU-28 n°1 in pellets.
To be able to respond to the ambition of clean energy programs that emerged throughout the EU-28, the pellet industry has innovated in many ways. The level of sophistication has risen on the continent to such an extent that manufactured pellets can be delivered in bulk and deposited directly in dedicated individual containers similar to the way gas stations are restocked with gasoline. In the meantime, the quality of wood pellet material was homogenised and guaranteed through the development of the certification scheme ENplus helping to make pellets a standardised commodity. On the other hand, stove and boiler manufacturers have designed new appliances specially adapted to the use of pellets with high energy efficiency, maximising the advantage of this new fuel. Besides the residential heating market, European industrial players are now using pellets in cogeneration and power plants.
According to the EPC vision, wood pellets still have great room for improvement across Europe especially in the “mid-scale” market, meaning installations with a capacity between 100 kW – 5 MW, found in district heating, large habitation buildings, public buildings, services, agriculture and industry.