Home Members & Resources WPAC Newsletter: March 2023

WPAC Newsletter: March 2023

by Adam Dras

Welcome to the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s March newsletter. We hope you enjoy reading it and we welcome your feedback.



Gord Murray


With the planet’s changing climate, governments across the globe have implemented ambitious climate goals which have caused a seismic shift toward clean energy. The landscape is changing, accelerating the use of clean energy, and as a result bioheat from wood pellets are also shifting from niche to mainstream.

Wood pellets sourced from responsible producers in well-regulated countries like Canada are unquestionably sustainable and a part of the solution. We see that already from Canada’s North to the Maritimes to Europe and Japan and now even India. To meet this demand will require good public policy, strong incentives to support domestic needs, and responsible use of a renewable and precious resource.

Global Trendsetters

I recently attended the annual World Sustainable Energy Days event in Wels, Austria. Irene di Padua, Director of Policy at Bioenergy Europe, reported on global market trends and highlighted that the UK, South Korea and Denmark top the list in countries reaping the benefits of bioenergy from wood pellets. What really struck me, however, was the uptick in residential and commercial demand which now makes up 48 per cent of wood pellet consumption. This growth is most apparent in Europe where they have seen demand grow by 18 per cent and boiler sales by a whopping 109 per cent. Di Padua puts it best: “2021 was an exceptional year for pellets, with increased production, consumption and sales of boilers and stoves.”

Today, nearly three quarters of the world’s renewable energy is from biomass. Bioenergy accounts for about 10 per cent of total final energy consumption and two per cent of global electricity generation. In the United States and the European Union, bioenergy accounts for 60 per cent of all renewable energy. In fact, over the past 20 years, bioenergy, is responsible for the most greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, much in the form of bioheat.

Renewable energy is also considered indispensable to Japan’s pledged decarbonization strategy, and as part of its goal to become carbon-neutral by 2050 the country is accelerating its use of biomass. For the first time in history, Japan has surpassed the UK in pellet imports from Canada. Today Canadian wood pellets, made entirely from the sawmill and harvesting residuals and low quality or damaged logs, are being used in hundreds of power plants across Japan providing a critical source of energy for that country’s power grid. I encourage you to watch our video on this important trade relationship.

New Frontiers: India

Along with the rest of the planet, India recognizes the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy. Significant opportunity exists in capitalizing on India’s domestic biomass production to support its ambitious climate change goals. India burns approximately 670 million tonnes of coal annually for power generation, but the Government of India (GOI) has recently mandated biomass co-firing in its coal plants.

I recently visited India on a trade mission coordinated by the British Columbia Government’s Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd. You can read my report, watch the video or see the presentation on our website.

Canada: Opportunity Is Knocking

At 2.8 million tonnes of annual consumption of wood pellets, North America lags behind Europe (35.6 million tonnes, including UK) and Asia (7.2 million tonnes). In Canada, in part, this is due to many of our provinces having access to hydro electricity and natural gas. But in some Maritime provinces and remote northern and Indigenous communities energy poverty is a reality.

Canada is the world’s second largest producer of wood pellets; but more than 90 per cent of our pellets are exported. Why? Yes, we have work to do on promoting wood pellets to make Canadians more aware, but the fact is we see publicly-funded incentives going to competing products. These include heat pumps and investments in far-off solutions like hydrogen, when today’s solutions are in the sawmill and harvest residuals across Canada’s forests.

There are examples of smaller markets leading the way on the use of bioheat. Take Upper Austria – about one-sixth the size of New Brunswick with a population of 1.5 million people. According to Christiane Egger, Deputy Manager of the Energy Agency of Upper Austria, in her region biomass accounts for 42 per cent of space heating and provides 18 per cent of energy used in manufacturing. The use of fossil fuels for heating is banned in all new home construction and heating system replacements – a key driver behind the 72,000 modern automatic biomass and 360 biomass district heating plants now operating in the region. Austria has succeeded in making biomass a mainstream fuel and taken 30,000 homes off fossil fuels.

The good news is that significant inroads to biomass have already been made in Canada’s Maritime provinces and Northern and remote communities. In New Brunswick local wood pellets are increasingly being viewed as an important part of the equation.

There are excellent examples of this progress from the King Street Elementary School in Miramichi to the Université de Moncton (UDM) Shippagan Campus to the record attendance at the recent N.W.T. Biomass Week conference, which highlighted the growing importance of biomass in reducing reliance on fossil fuels. In Yellowknife alone 33 per cent of the territorial government buildings are heated with wood pellets. In B.C. Tsi Del Del Nation provides biomass to Drax’s Williams Lake pellet plant, and the Atlantic Power facility provides power to more than 50,000 homes.

Back east, Ontario Power Generation, which produces half of the province’s electricity, is a pioneer in 100 per cent coal-to-biomass conversion and today operates the largest biomass plant in North America. It attributes its investment to the fact that biomass can deliver dispatchable renewable power, providing system capacity, peaking and ramping capability which results in a 1:1 displacement of GHGs from sources such as coal and natural gas.

As the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs Canada, pointed out in his opening remarks at Biomass Week, clean energy, like biomass, means better health and better environmental outcomes for northern and Indigenous communities while creating economic opportunities and jobs for residents.

The Shift to Mainstream Requires Good Policy

Today, biomass is recognized by the Government of Canada as low carbon technology, typically saving 90 per cent GHG emissions over fossil alternatives. It can contribute to the elimination of heating oil and natural gas heating in Canada and mitigate the effect of closing coal power plants by providing high efficiency, low carbon heat energy in replacement for fossil-derived electric heating.

But to reach its full potential, good public policy from the ground up and fair incentives from governments are needed.

In British Columbia we are already seeing the Province’s commitment to reduce “waste” through projects funded by the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C. that will help get more fire-damaged wood and logging waste to the mills that need it.

The Government of Canada also recognizes the role of forest bioenergy in reducing Canada’s emissions under the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan. Programs like the Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit are key to expanding clean technology solutions in places like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, however, biomass boilers must be afforded a level playing field with other clean technologies like heat pumps.

Over the next decade, both these provinces’ electricity capacity is forecasted to drop by 50 per cent. Heat pumps alone will not solve the problem which will require the current fossil fuel grid to run the heat pumps. Including biomass from wood pellets is good for Canadians’ pocketbooks; it’s good for the environment; and it’s good for local economies.

We’ve also got work to do on removing trade barriers that restrict the importation of European boilers into Canada. Currently, we don’t make boilers in Canada, and we can’t import them as they are manufactured, so the only significant market for our pellets is offshore, to be used in homes and businesses around the world as a sustainable source of renewable energy and heat. Canada’s wood pellet consumption is tiny by global standards, entirely due to the lack of access to modern highly-automated wood pellet boilers. We’re making good progress on this front, stay tuned for more developments on this.

The bottom line is our industry exists primarily to make better use of forests that are already being harvested. Undeniably, tackling climate change is a global effort, but the truth is that commitment and hard work begins right here at home.

Global Role Models and Domestic Opportunities

My recent trips to India and Europe have left me inspired. It’s obvious that many places around the world have moved beyond the basics of trying to educate policy makers and the public about the benefits of bioheat. The benefits are now accepted as mainstream and instead the focus is on how to grow markets, improve technology and to continue to promote the benefits of bioheat. Here in Canada, we have work to do, but it’s also clear to me that there is a groundswell of support and increasing awareness of the potential of local bioheat solutions.



For more information about the event, visit the conference’s website, https://wpac-agm.pellet.org/.



The Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) recently joined a trade mission to India in January organized by the B.C. Government’s Forestry Innovation Investment Ltd. We saw this mission as a good way to learn more about opportunities for the wood pellet sector in India and we were not mistaken.

India recognizes the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to clean energy. India burns approximately 670 million tonnes of coal annually for power generation, but the Government of India (GOI) has recently mandated biomass co-firing in its coal plants, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality for its population of 1.5 billion people. Its ambitious targets included transitioning to 5 per cent co-firing by October 2022 and 7 per cent co-firing by October 2023.

The GOI estimates this action could save 38 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, however, to achieve these goals approximately 96,000 tonnes per day of biomass pellets would be needed. The current capacity in India is approximately 7,000 tonnes per day. Annually, this demand could reach upwards of 35 million tonnes of biomass pellets.

India is an important trade partner of Canada, and although in its infancy, the time is ripe for further investigation into investment opportunities for the Canadian pellet sector. WPAC presented its findings in a full report, Challenges, Considerations, and Opportunities for Canadian Pellet Producers.

Read WPAC’s full report or view our webinar here.



The Government of New Brunswick is leading the way in promoting sustainable building practices. One of its key goals is to lower energy consumption, in turn reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing cost savings for the people of New Brunswick. Local wood pellets are increasingly being viewed as part of the equation.

Local pellets lower GHG emissions at King Street Elementary School in Miramichi, N.B. The team at the school say the biomass boiler system is efficient and easy to use. In the photo; bottom right Ronald Lavigne (facilities manager), bottom left Andrew Underhill (assistant facilities manager), top left to right, Chris MacDonald (custodian II, King Street Elementary), Mike Keane (MRIII, millwright) Justin Fogarty (MRIII, HVAC technician). Photo: WPAC

One such example is the King Street Elementary School in Miramichi, N.B., which was the province’s first venture into version 4 of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system. The LEED v4 standard was used to guide the construction of a highly energy-efficient school that also emphasizes human health and well-being. The two-storey school, designed by Boyd R. Algee Architect Ltd., was built in 2017, covers 6,137 square metres, can accommodate about 400 students, and features a biomass boiler for its heating needs.

Fast forward five years – we wanted to see how the boiler system is performing so we caught up with Ronald Lavigne, an electrician by trade, who has worked in the school district for nearly 30 years and today is the facilities manager for 29 schools and three educational centres in the Anglophone North School District, which includes the King Street school. He was also part of the team that worked with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DTI) for the design concept of the school.

Ron says the boiler performs well, is easy to run and maintain, and has reduced GHGs by 100 per cent compared to coal: Read the full interview here.



Our vision at the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) is two-fold. First, to grow a resilient pellet sector that creates green, renewable products at the forefront of the global transition to a low carbon economy. And second, to maximize the sector’s innovation in the bioeconomy.

WPAC’s Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, Ph.D, works in the laboratory of the Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group (BBRG) at the University of British Columbia. Photo courtesy UBC BBRG.

As the world’s population continues to grow, so will the demand for cleaner energy solutions and better products. The fact is that it’s research that is going to propel us forward. WPAC is one of the few forest sector associations in Canada with a research arm. Our success depends on provincial and federal governments, scientists and academics, safety experts, producers and our customers who support us with both funding, expertise and time.

Trailblazers at the University of British Columbia’s Biomass and Bioenergy Research Group like Shahab Sokhansanj, Ph.D. and WPAC’s research director Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, Ph.D., are leading the way to exploring the power of pellets in the bioeconomy and improving safety and quality in the pellet sector. Their ground-breaking research is changing the way we think about the biomass sector. As Gary Bull, Ph.D., professor and head of the University of British Columbia’s Department of Forest Resources Management, says, “Wood pellets have an incredibly important role to play in society, and we will see a huge evolution. The opportunities for using wood pellets right here at home and around the world are basically limitless.” Read more here.



Elvis Brown, from Ventura Stanton Partnership Ltd, in front of the opened door of the pellet boiler at Legacy Stanton Biomass in Yellowknife. Photo: Arctic Energy Alliance.

By Mark Heyck, executive director of the Arctic Energy Alliance

Every day, we see more and more of the real-life impacts of climate change, but perhaps nowhere as profoundly as in the North. The North and the Arctic are warming at three times the global rate, with significant impacts on infrastructure. We know that reducing our reliance on fossil fuels is key to fighting climate change.

That’s why more than 350 delegates from across Canada and around the globe met virtually for the Northwest Territories (N.W.T.) Biomass Week Jan. 30 to Feb. 3. The event was co-hosted by the Arctic Energy Alliance and the Wood Pellet Association of Canada with support from media partner Canadian Biomass.

As the Honourable Dan Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs Canada, pointed out in his opening remarks, clean energy, like biomass, means better health and better environmental outcomes for northern and Indigenous communities while creating economic opportunities and jobs for residents.

Moving forward, it will take all of us working together to ensure we are closing gaps in the North. Events such as Biomass Week are important for generating ideas and creating opportunities for how we collaborate. They also reinforce the importance of putting the future in the hands of the people.

Read the full article here.

Biomass Week presentations are posted here.



We recently sat down with Julie Griffiths, newly appointed chair of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s (WPAC) Safety Committee.  She replaces Scott Bax, who served as chair for 12 years and supported many of our sector’s ground-breaking safety initiatives. A big thanks to Scott for his leadership and we look forward to his continued participation on the safety committee.

In this interview Julie shares her philosophy on safety leadership and her thoughts on WPAC’s recently released 2023 workplan. Julie holds an undergraduate and master’s degrees in earth sciences from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia and currently works as the quality, sustainability and environmental program co-ordinator for Shaw Renewables in Shubenacadie, N.S.

Julie told us she was excited to take on a new role. “The Safety Committee is providing top notch, front of the line research and resources to industry, and I’m proud to be a part of it. But more importantly, the Safety Committee includes everyone that can contribute to making our industry safer… We don’t want anyone to be left behind. Ideally, we’d like to see the committee grow to have full representation across Canada and across sectors. So, I would ask, who is representing your team?”

Read more about how Julie views the challenges ahead here.

Read the Safety Committee’s 2023 Workplan here.



by Kayleigh Rayner Brown, MASc., P.Eng., process safety specialist and director of Obex Risk Ltd.

I recently led a 15-minute safety huddle webinar on Inherently Safer Design (ISD) focusing on quick safety insights and lessons on applying ISD in wood pellet plants to manage combustible dust hazards.

Participants heard how ISD helps make processes safer and more robust and may make plants more economical through reduced risk, capital cost, and requirements associated with more complex risk management controls. ISD also supports continuous improvement.

ISD focusses on elimination of hazards and treatment of hazards at the source, rather than relying on only add-on equipment and procedures.

To learn more about ISD and how to incorporate it at your plant, visit www.pellet.org/safety



WPAC’s improved One-Stop Safety Resource, created last year, has been updated with the latest safety information to include:

  • The 2023 safety plan
  • New video:  Innovating Our Way to a Safer Better Product
  • Updates on belt dryer project including final report, fact sheet and key takeaways
  • Final report on Deflagration Isolation
  • Video: 15-minute safety huddle Inherently Safer Design

The One-Stop Safety Resource is a living document and regularly updated so make a point of checking back. You can find it on WPAC’s website here.



One of the highpoints of British Columbia’s trade mission to Japan in the late fall was the excitement created by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s video that underscores how the long-standing trading relationship between our countries has evolved to tackle climate change. Canada and Japan: Working Together for a Brighter Future was showcased during a high-profile event that brought our many valued Japanese customers together with representatives from industry, the B.C., Canadian and Japanese governments and First Nations.

Japan’s commitment to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 has increased the importance of sustainability and traceability through the entire supply chain, and the video makes clear Canadian wood pellets are a perfect fit and a vital pillar of B.C.’s forest products trade with the nation.

“We can take pride in knowing that at the end of the day the customer is requesting sustainable products and we can provide them,” says Jessica Hochins, registered professional forester and certification co-ordinator, Skeena Sawmills and BioEnergy.

Read the full article here.

Watch the video here.



By Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, Ph.D., Director of Research and Technical Development

WPAC is nothing if not preparing for the future. In its latest video release, The Power of Pellets: The Benefits of ENplus® Certification, its members drive home the message: If you’re a Canadian pellet producer, and you want to know that you’re making a world class pellet, get certified!

We are heading toward a greener future that foresees more and more use of biomass as a renewable energy and one just has to look at the volume of ENplus® certificates to see that high quality wood pellets are part of this future.

Established in 2011, ENplus® has over 1200 certified companies, representing more than 1,200 million tonnes of ENplus® certified wood pellets, which translates to more than 79% of all pellets that are used in the European heating market.

British Columbia-based Premium Pellet has had ENplus® certification since 2013, as a part of its sales strategy into Italy and other parts of Europe, and as the companies’ wood pellet sales continue to grow, many customers are requesting ENplus® certification.

Julie Griffiths, Quality, Sustainability, Environmental Program Coordinator at Shaw Renewables shares her firsthand experience: “It’s not difficult to get certified at all. Once you’ve got the support of your management and employees, you can dive right in. It’s just a matter of streamlining some of your processes, adding a bit more documentation and really making your system more robust.”

Watch the video here.



Join us in Kelowna at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 5, 2023 or in Prince George at the Conferences and Civic Centre on May 18, 2023 for a full day workshop that explains the human factor approach used to understand why workplace incidents occur.

Hosted by the Wood Pellet Association of Canada’s Safety Committee, in co-operation with the BC Forest Safety Council, WorkSafeBC and media partner Canadian Biomass Magazine, this workshop aims to reduce the risk of workplace incidents by gaining insight into the connection between human actions and the workplace.

This workshop will introduce a rigorous 7-step methodology to systematically understand where and how worker interactions could be optimized to provide assurance that the critical control will be available and reliable when needed and as expected.

Who Should Attend:

  • Process safety engineers
  • Operations personnel
  • Control systems programmers
  • Maintenance personnel
  • Supervisors
  • OHS personnel

Read More and Register Here



An Interview with the Centre for Social Intelligence’s Kelly Cooper

Kelly Cooper is the Founder and President of the Centre for Social Intelligence (CSI). Ms. Cooper works with leaders and change agents to create a diversity and inclusion transformation within their organizations and across a sector. She is the D&I expert co-leading the Free to Grow in Forestry initiative which aims to achieve gender equality and meaningful inclusion of women, Indigenous peoples, and new Canadians at all levels from technical to executive level positions in the forest sector.

Members of the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC) have made great strides in its efforts on D&I starting with a commitment to be among Canada’s most diverse and inclusive trade associations. Today, women in Canada’s pellet sector are leading organizations and committees, and responsible for pellet production, capital development sustainable forest management.  But there’s more that we can do. That’s why Dr. Fahimeh Yazdan Panah, WPAC’s Director of Research and Technical Development, recently sat down with Kelly to learn more about her important work and how the wood pellet sector can further advance D&I.

In this interview Kelly explains that D&I is really about changing the status quo and “change is tough for most people… It’s also about respecting everyone, no matter what they look like.”

According to Kelly, “Creating a workplace culture where various dimensions of diversity are welcomed and appreciated for their new insights and perspectives is where creativity and innovation come from. And with that innovation, you can attain a positive return to your bottom line.”

WPAC has made a commitment to be among the most inclusive and successful trade associations by actively seeking out diversity across our industry.

Read more