Briquette prices are twice higher, but demand remains high

The energy crisis makes the Moldovans look for alternatives. The demand for solid biofuels increased significantly after the gas and electrical energy grew in prices. The producers of briquettes from biomass experience a shortage of raw material and this way incur higher costs. Consequently, they doubled the prices. Last winter, a tonne of briquettes was sold for 3,200 lei, but now the price is 6,000-7,000 lei, RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service says on its website.

Victor Vorobyoff from Ungheni town produces pellets and briquettes from sunflower shells and sawdust.  His company needs to monthly supply 1,000 tonnes of solid biofuel to public institutions with which it signed contracts. Furthermore, it receives an increasing number of requests from household users. “The demand rose significantly and we fear we will be unable to cope. The people expect a harsh winter and know that biomass is an alternative that can save them,” the entrepreneur stated for RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service.

He explained that sawdust is less as trees are not felled. They buy sunflower sells from oil factories, but these offer them small quantities as they also make pellets and briquettes. There is also less straw due to the drought.

Biomass producer Gheorghe Porcescu from Dumbrăvița village of Sângerei district is sure that the prices will continue to rise as production costs are much higher. Last year he spent about 3,000 lei on each tonne of biomass, but this year the costs per tonne rose to over 4,000 lei. The demand grew by 30% this year and the authorities should therefore support the producers of energy resources from biomass more.

Earlier this week, the Commission for Exceptional Situations allowed the import of sawdust and non-conglomerated wood waste as raw material for making solid biofuels. However, the producers do not seem pleased with such decision. They said the imports will bring additional costs and there are enough resources in the country to satisfy the demand for raw materials, but appropriate state policies are needed in this field.

Anticipating that Gazprom could limit or even halt gas supplies to Moldova, the Government proposed, among others, switching boilers in public institutions back to biofuel. Within a project implemented by UNDP in 2011 and 2018, hundreds of schools, kindergartens, community centers and households in Moldova switched to biomass, but many of them returned to coal or gas later owing to the rise in prices and the shortage of solid biofuel.

The businesses launched or supported as part of the UNDP project “Energy and Biomass” are now lower in number. Of 150-160 producers of pellets and briquettes, now less than 30 remained on the market.

Compared with firewood, the pellets and briquettes have reduced humidity, require less storage space, produce two-three times more heat and emit a minimum quantity of smoke and carbon dioxide when burning. A tonne of briquettes replaces about five cubic meters of firewood.

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