Fred Miyata, Japan Country Lead for the U.S. Industrial Pellet Association, discusses how Japan has charted a pathway to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 and how biomass will be essential to reaching these targets.
March 2, 2021
Countries around the world have committed to achieve net-zero emissions by the middle of this century, and the Japanese government also followed quit in October 2020. However, specific measures on how to actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions are still undecided, including technology and cost.
I am in a position to serve as the Japanese representative of a U.S. business association that manufactures wood pellets, which are a type of biomass, and I don’t think there is a way for us not to use biomass on a large-scale in Japan.
Sustainable biomass will make it possible to significantly replace coal, which currently accounts for about 30% of electricity generation in Japan. It seems to me that the government typically considers biomass power generation facilities to be small-scale, and does not consider them to be very effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Specifically, we think it would be effective to convert existing facilities such as large-scale coal-fired power plants owned by electric power companies to biomass. New construction is possible, but you should start by using existing equipment to keep costs down. If converted properly, biomass will be able to supply more than 10% of Japan's electricity generation. In fact, this is the equivalent of 10 nuclear power plants.
There are many leading examples in Europe. In the UK, Denmark, Belgium and else, large coal-fired power plants were converted to woody biomass and are now in operation. Among others biomass accounts for more than 10% of the total electricity generated in the UK.
Although not requiring new technological development when it becomes full-fledged in Japan, it is necessary to have a mechanism to compensate for the cost of remodeling facilities at power plants and the increase in fuel costs compared to coal. It may be through a direct subsidy with making cost structure transparent, or, indirectly through the introduction of carbon pricing (CP) that will price greenhouse gas emissions. We would like the government to introduce a mechanism to further promote the use of biomass.
When promoting the use of woody biomass, issues such as reducing prices while ensuring supply stability have been pointed out, and it is important to promote local production and consumption by domestic biomass, as well as to utilize imported materials. Ensuring the sustainability of biomass fuels is the most important premise, and producers must pay special attention to this issue.
As a U.S. producer, we are ready to collaborate to streamline supply chain and reduce production costs in Japan. I hope that Japan and the U.S. will overcome the hurdles through cooperation.
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