Canadian Biomass Magazine

WPAC Asia conference: wood pellet sector well positioned to support climate action

February 18, 2021

Nearly 300 delegates from across Asia and North America joined the Wood Pellet Association of Canada (WPAC)’s first-ever Asia Wood Pellet Conference, highlighting the rapid and exciting expansion of pellet production and green energy demand in Canada and key Asian markets.

WPAC, together with Canadian Biomass magazine and Canada’s embassies in Japan and South Korea and its trade office in Taiwan, hosted a live online conference called, Energizing Asia with Sustainable Low-Carbon Biomass, on Feb. 17 (Japan Standard Time). Scientists, energy producers, government regulators and forest managers shared insights on the important role of sustainable wood biomass in meeting global greenhouse gas targets, and the data and research that supports the use of wood pellets as a green energy source.

Katrine Conroy, British Columbia’s Minister of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, highlighted the growing role of Canada’s pellet industry in the future of B.C.’s forest sector and globally.

“B.C.’s pellet sector has transitioned from a fledgling industry to an important player in our province’s 21st century forest sector driving innovation and supporting our CleanBC agenda,” she said.


Legal experts Peter Armstrong and Maya Ito, from Japan’s largest law firm, Nishimura and Asahi, provided a comprehensive overview of the legal landscape in Japan for green energy. The Japanese market for bioenergy is rapidly evolving and growing following Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s declaration that Japan will aim for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and reduce its reliance on nuclear power.

“I am happy to say that the Canadian government, together with our provincial partners and Canada’s industry, is highly committed to these principles,” Tracy Reynolds, Minister (Commercial), Embassy of Canada to Japan, said. “We are focused on increasing the utilization of wood fibre in our forests, as well as increasing the value of production from harvested forests and innovation beyond primary manufacturing. Canada is ready to meet the needs of today’s global wood pellet buyers.”

It was clear that the growth is not just limited to Japan. Presenters William Strauss and Annette Bossler of FutureMetrics estimate that under evolving policy, the pellet sector is forecast to reach about 43 million metric tonnes per year in 2027 – more than double the demand seen in 2019. Rick Harris, with Skeena BioEnergy, also believes that Taiwan is poised to transition its power plants from fossil fuels and wood pellets could be used for co-firing or to replace coal altogether.

And while market demand for woody biomass energy is strong, so, too, is the expectation and requirement that wood pellets come from sustainably managed forests. Customers, governments and pellet producers are aligned on the need for wood pellets to meet the highest environmental standards, and to ensure that wood fibre inputs do not contribute to deforestation or environmental degradation.

“Bioenergy, which is a versatile energy source, can play a key role for global decarbonization,” Takanobu Aikawa, Ph.D., senior researcher, at the Renewable Energy Institute, Japan, and director of the Japan Woody Biomass Association, added. “More co-operation is needed to build an innovative governance scheme for sustainable bioenergy growth and verification methods of woody biomass will be decisive for the future growth.”

One research study, presented by Joe Aquino of Pinnacle Renewable Energy, demonstrated that, when considering greenhouse gas emissions across the entire production and transportation supply chain, Canadian wood pellets fired for energy production in Japan generate only 8.37 per cent of the emissions generated by coal.

It is clear that Canada has a great story to tell both on the ground and in the air, according to WPAC’s executive director Gordon Murray.

“Wood pellet production in Canada serves to maximize the use of every tree harvested – all of our fibre is either a direct by-product of the lumber industry, or the purposeful extraction of dead, diseased or damaged or low-quality trees,” Murray said. “By creating a valuable energy product from material that once went to waste in Canada’s highly integrated forest sector, Canadian wood pellet producers are providing global customers with responsible, low carbon energy.”

The conference’s emcee, Vaughan Bassett, senior vice-president of Pinnacle Renewable Energy and chair of WPAC, noted in his closing remarks that Canadian wood pellet producers are at exciting cross-roads in the development of international sustainability guidelines.

“I expect climate change policy to continue to drive global demand for biomass and that wood pellets will easily surpass 70 million tons per annum. This demand growth cannot happen in isolation. It must dovetail with carefully thought-out sustainability rules,” he said.

It was a message well-received by all conference delegates and a responsibility that is strongly embraced in Canada.

“We’re doing more than just selling product – we’re helping countries meet the demand for responsible, renewable and clean energy while improving the health of our forests here at home in British Columbia,” the B.C. Minister of State for Trade, George Chow, said.

Thank you to all who joined our conference, and our esteemed group of presenters, for your contributions in making this year’s Asia Wood Pellet Conference a huge success. Of course, conferences like this also come about by a dedicated team of professionals behind the scenes and with the support of our sponsors Pinnacle Renewable Energy, Premium Pellet Ltd. and the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

If you were unable to join the conference but are interested in the environmental and market research presented by this group of leading experts in the field, the recorded presentations will be made available to registrants in the next few days. You can register here at any time.

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