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 2.4 million tons (Mt) 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 500,000 tons in 2017, a seven-fold increase from 2012. PKS consumption has risen at a similar rate, to 1.5 Mt in 2017.
South Korea’s biomass demand is supported by the Renewable Portfolio Standard, which aims to achieve a 10 percent 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. Changes to the REC weightings of certain technologies, including wood pellets, could reduce their value significantly.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. 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 a new 120-page multi-client report - A Strategic Assessment of Asian Pacific Biomass Demand and Supply out to 2030.
An important part of that study is the identification of viable sources of biomass that could meet the needs of this new market. Hawkins Wright has provided detailed answers to questions about the volumes of biomass that will be needed and where these volumes may come from. Is there enough biomass available to satisfy demand?
The report presents critically appraised data on the volumes and costs of three main types of biomass: wood pellets, wood chips and PKS. It considers not just domestic resources but also those which could be transported economically from feedstock supply regions around the Asian Pacific Rim. Namely, South East Asia (Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines), North East Asia (China and eastern Russia), Australia, North America (British Columbia, the US Pacific North West and the US South) and Latin America.
Uniquely, the report includes detailed analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions from a variety of biomass supply chains which could potentially serve Asian utilities. Another critical element of the research is the appraisal of the economics of biomass power generation in Japan and Korea. By investigating the various costs and revenue streams associated with new-build power stations and cofiring, Hawkins Wright has been able to calculate how much such (hypothetical) projects can afford to pay for their biomass fuel. These insights will help project developers and biomass fuel suppliers determine whether their ventures are likely to be economically viable.
Finally, the report provides an informed appraisal of some of the key risks for investors in this growing market. Political risk, logistics, sustainability, bankability and feedstock supply risk are all important factors which must be given due consideration by companies operating in this market.