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The Asian biomass market: an introduction to our new blog series

by Fiona Matthews May 31, 2018

Asia’s demand for biomass is growing rapidly. Wood pellet imports into South Korea and Japan have grown exponentially in the past few years. In 2017 South Korea imported 2.4Mt of wood pellets, 20 times more than was imported in 2012. Japan is currently a smaller market, but its growth has also been impressive. Japan imported over 0.5Mt in 2017, a seven-fold increase from 2012. PKS consumption has risen at a similar rate, to 1.5Mt in 2017.

South Korea’s biomass demand is supported by the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which aims to achieve a 10% renewable electricity share by 2024. To satisfy their RPS requirements, obligated companies can either generate their own renewable electricity or purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from other renewable electricity generators. However, much uncertainty currently surrounds the Korean subsidy system. As we reported in the latest Forest Energy Monitor newsletter, changes to the REC weightings of certain biomass technologies have been confirmed this month, which could threaten the prospects of new biomass power projects under development. Another review of cofiring support is scheduled for the second half of this year, meaning that the situation is far from stable.

In Japan, the market is supported by a feed-in-tariff (FIT) scheme which provides a 20-year subsidy to firms producing renewable energy. Biomass has proved hugely popular. By March 2017 almost 12GW of biomass projects had been approved under the FIT scheme, far exceeding the quantity envisaged under Japan’s Best Energy Mix 2030 scenario of 2.7-4GW. This has forced the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to act to curb the growth of biomass power, and from 2018 new biomass applications >10MW have been removed from the main FIT and switched to a new bidding system.

The huge scale of this potential growth in biomass demand has, understandably, drawn a lot of attention. Biomass producers and users worldwide are looking keenly to Asia and wish to understand how the growing market may impact on existing global trade flows. However, the outlook for Asian biomass demand is far from certain and a wide range of variables could feasibly constrain its growth.

Over several months, Hawkins Wright carried out extensive fieldwork, site visits, meetings, quantitative and qualitative analysis to establish the true nature of the emerging biomass market. This research has provided unique insights which are published in our new 120-page multi-client report - A Strategic Assessment of Asian Pacific Biomass Demand and Supply to 2030.

An important part of this study was the identification of viable sources of biomass that could meet the needs of this new market. Crucially, we wanted to understand whether there will be enough biomass available to satisfy demand.

In the coming weeks we will be publishing a series of blogs sharing some of the findings from our research. This content will include overviews of the supply of wood pellets, chips and PKS, as well as discussion of demand trends, and challenges and opportunities for the industry. Don’t forget to use the link below to sign up to future blog alerts and make sure you don’t miss any of the upcoming content.

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