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Evolving Requirements in Sustainability: Learn About Biomass and GHG requirements Currently under Development in Japan

Speaker: Takanobu Aikawa, PhD, Renewable Energy Institute

In Japan, under the feed-in-tariff scheme and in the broader electricity business in general, there were originally no regulations forcing electricity producers to verify sustainability of fuel.  In April 2019, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy recognized the need to address this situation and created the Sustainability Working Group (SWG).

The SWG began by focussing on agricultural biomass, and in 2020 began considering evaluation methods for greenhouse gas emissions reductions.  The Renewable Energy Institute has considered the current state of systems for ensuring sustainability and has suggested direction for industry and government to take that includes clarifying responsibilities, and understanding certification systems, their effectiveness and what their role might be.

The Renewable Energy Institute, which has analyzed the use of bioenergy as a climate change measure in Japan, discusses a framework for GHG reductions including systems that could be used to manage GHG reduction benefits and the setting of appropriate targets.

Takanobu Aikawa

Takanobu Aikawa is a senior researcher at Japan’s Renewable Energy Institute.  He joined the Institute in 2016.  Previously he was at Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting and conducted research and consulting on the forestry industry. Spurred by the Great East Japan Earthquake, he began to engage in a variety of bioenergy projects, mainly focusing on woody biomass. From early on, he has paid attention to bioenergy sustainability issues, and since April 2019 he has been a member of the Bioenergy Sustainability Working Group at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Takanobu holds his master’s degree in forest ecology from the Graduate School of Agriculture, Kyoto University and received a doctorate in agricultural studies on human resources development policy in forest management at the Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University.

At the Renewable Energy Institute, Takanobu specializes in bioenergy policies and focuses on research on sustainability of woody biomass, the development of medium to long-term strategies and is also responsible for collaborating with local governments for promoting renewables.

Presentation Summary:

As Japan looks to improve its energy security and economic efficiency while at the same time greening its energy production and reducing carbon emissions, woody biomass can play a key role in decarbonization that Japan aims to realize by 2050.

Energy production inputs have shifted significantly in Japan following the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 – and renewable energy production (including hydropower, bioenergy, geothermal, wind and solar) reached a 23% share in the first half of 2020. Japan continues to invest in its bioenergy production capacity, which has driven a rapid increase in biomass imports to Japan, including wood pellets from Canada.

Not all biomass is created equal from a sustainability perspective, and there have been concerns raised within the Japanese market regarding the sustainability credentials of biomass fuels as a result. The Japanese Government is undertaking detailed discussions aimed at developing sustainability criteria to evaluate various biomass energy inputs. These are predicated on three pillars of sustainability – measuring GHG reduction impacts, evaluating land sustainability practices and ensuring traceability.

These discussions were launched in April 2019, and the evaluation scheme remains under development, with draft criteria and an evaluation of certification programs for land management and chain-of-custody traceability in progress. Through this evaluation scheme, which is being managed collaboratively between different responsible government agencies, reliable and transparent documentation of the sustainability benefits of biomass will be achieved, which will be critical to future growth of bioenergy utilization in Japan.

By developing and implementing a sustainable biomass governance scheme, international partners in Japan and Canada can create a robust sustainability business case for growing our trade and investment in biomass energy.

For a downloadable PDF of this summary. Click here.

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