Like the proverbial ant preparing for winter while the cigale sings all summer long, now is the time to fill our reserves for the cold months.
However, for owners of pellet stoves, current prices may still give them pause. At around €500 per tonne, the price now is far lower than last winter and last summer, but still historically high.
As anyone with a pellet stove is sorely aware, prices per tonne increased from €270 in January 2022 to an eye-watering €750 in January 2023. Prior to this, pellet fuel was considered to be a reliably economical and relatively environmentally friendly way to heat homes, with prices rarely surpassing the €300 threshold even in winter.
Fear caused price increase
The war in Ukraine was widely blamed for the increase. Indeed, prior to the war, Ukraine, Belarus and Russia supplied 10% of pellets in France. However, producers deny that prices increased due to a shortage of raw material.
“A great deal of the past year’s increased prices was artificial. It was a speculative increase, because with all of the increased energy prices lots of people bought pellets earlier,” said Eric Vial, Director of the Propellet - the National Association for pellet fuel. “In March  demand was at 100% of annual production,” he added.
The real culprit for increased prices, Mr Vial points out, was the diminished capacity to meet demand due to coronavirus, along with the same increased energy costs as in other sectors.
Buy now and keep the receipt
Pellet fuel is less expensive in the summer months, and very unlikely to decrease in price through the winter. However, help could be made available. Last year, the government granted an allowance of up to €200 to more than two million households with pellet stoves for pellet purchases made in and between June 2022 and March 2023. No repeat allowance has yet been announced for this year.
Last spring also saw a massive increase in the price of fuel oil (fioul), which approached €2,000 per 1,000 litres in March 2022. Prices have not yet fallen to pre-war levels and the current price of €1,300 is expected to increase again, in line with the oil production forecast over the coming months. The French government also gave aid for this form of heating.