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News 06.04.2022

Aaron Pasternack from Stora Enso on the importance of quality for the pellet producer

Do you know that as of April 2022, there are more than 630 ENplus® certified producers from various countries around the world? Today, we will introduce you to a representative of Stora Enso which is a big international producer of wood pellets with ENplus® certified pellet production sites in a few markets. Our guest is Aaron Pasternack, Product / Business Development Manager.

Dear Mr., Pasternack, what should we know about Stora Enso?

Stora Enso is a Nordic-based, global leader in renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wood construction, and paper. We’re also one of the largest private forest owners in the world. We believe that everything made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow. Our materials are repairable, renewable, reusable and recyclable, and form the building blocks that can help transform our world for the better. That’s why we’re known as the renewable materials company, with sustainability and responsible business practices deeply embedded in our strategy.  Certifying our premium pellets as ENplus A1 is just one example of putting our values into practice.

Specifically about wood pellets, we are one of Europe’s larger pellets producers, manufacturing ca 400 000 tons per year in 8 mills across Europe, particularly in the Nordic and Baltic regions.  We look forward to opening our 9th mill later this year in Finland and expanding our production in years to come.  We are an active partner with customers across various segments, including district heating providers, municipalities, small/medium businesses and residential consumers, and even horse-bedding in selected markets.

With roots from the 13th century, Stora Enso is among the oldest companies in the world.  Despite our long history, however, Stora Enso is one of the world’s most innovative leaders in exploring renewables for the future.  22 000 of my colleagues across Europe and beyond develop sustainable and renewable solutions every day to counter climate change and promote positive, eco-friendly business. I’m proud that our Pellets business contributes to this effort as a critical resource in tomorrow’s bioenergy.

What does a guarantee for quality (such as certification, for example) mean for your international business operations?

Quality is the cornerstone of our pellets. Without it, we cannot provide our customers with the portfolio solutions and service they expect. As a producer of premium pellets, we are dedicated to ensuring that every bag and every ton across our value chain meets our – and our customers’ – high standards for quality. Consistently high-quality wood pellets promote long-term value, and superior heating performance.

The ENplus® certification, therefore, assures that customers are getting what they pay for, what they expect – a guaranteed seal of reliability and peace-of-mind.  Certification is a respected stamp of approval, making it easy for our customers to choose pellets by Stora Enso with confidence, knowing that their pellets will perform as expected. Certification acts as a common language in and across markets between Stora Enso and our customers.  With that security, we can focus our attention on solving customer’s needs with service, innovation, and sustainable solutions.

Stora Enso 1

Source: Stora Enso

What is the biggest challenge for a pellet producer committed to providing both consumers and partners with a high-quality product?

The commitment to produce high-quality products is in our DNA, so we need to ensure that the entire integrated production chain process supports that ideal.  A key challenge is to ensure a regularly available supply of raw material, from sustainably managed, biodiverse forests. As we are one of the world's largest forest owners, this positions us very well.

Equally important is our commitment to never use forested wood directly in pellet production; our pellets are only produced from by-products after the sawmilling line. We work closely with our wood construction businesses to monitor and plan the available wood that would yield the sawdust and shavings required for our pellet orders.

 Another welcome challenge is on the other side of the value chain: helping our customers, including consumers new to Stora Enso, understand that quality and sustainability really matter. We work to educate and engage our customers and help them understand this difference when choosing the most suitable pellets.  Our customers share our pride in superior wood pellets that are produced with the highest regard for the environment.  This takes time; some consumers might choose pellets based on price alone, but they soon discover that quality and sustainability make a difference in the long run. 

According to your projections, what is the future of the pellet market?

Recently, electricity and gas prices have skyrocketed in Europe, inflating energy bills for homes and businesses. Governments are introducing relief measures while looking for long-term solutions to the energy crunch. Pellets are an obvious part of that solution.  This makes it an exciting time to be in the pellets business.  

There are other key trends at play, too.  Not least, the growing demand of biomass and renewable energy in general. The increasing focus on sustainability through heightened shopper awareness, will continue to grow.  We see this surge, particularly in the EU residential pellet consumption, which has grown +3,8% (2020 vs 2019) on top of +5% growth in the year prior.  This is fuelled, partially, by a boom in recent years of pellet stoves and boilers in several markets such as Germany, France, and Austria.  

In traditionally fossil-dependent markets, brave national policies including subsidies, are making an important impact to engage households and businesses alike in adopting more sustainable heating practices. In more eco-mature markets like Sweden, we see pellets not necessarily competing with fossil fuels, but rather challenging other “green solutions” based on overall value and ease of use. 

Sustainability will continue to play an increasingly important role, along with the market’s growing interest in quality.  So, we’re proud that Stora Enso is one of Europe’s only pellet producers with a comprehensive, transparent, and third-party verified Environmental Product Declaration.

With quality and sustainability as the foundation for pellets growth, we are encouraged by the overall market outlook.

Stora Enso 2

Source: Stora Enso

In your opinion, why do more and more households consider buying pellet appliances and choosing pellets as a heating solution?

Thanks to the straightforward and pragmatic handling of pellets, their accessibility both in distribution and price, and their contribution to environmentally friendly living, more and more consumers will choose pellets.  In addition to a richer understanding of pellets as a sustainable energy solution, consumers will also further appreciate the role of quality in heating performance and the total value. 

Innovative heating appliances, from intuitive boilers to “smart-home”-inspired stoves, will engage a new generation of heating consumers.  Simple operation, powerful performance, and even clever design make pellet appliances a natural part of home living. Quality pellets are the foundation of this consumption, and Stora Enso is excited to be at the forefront of this dynamic development as the Renewable Materials Company.