The earthquake, tsunami and resulting damage to the Fukushima nuclear power plant, triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, also caused a seismic shift to the Japanese energy market—especially power generation. Before the disaster, the Japanese government attempted a power market reform numerous times, but Japan’s utilities prevailed.
A year after the terrible events, however, Japan’s new feed-in tariffs (FITs) for renewable energy, as well as the first phase of the power market reform, launched renewable energy generation and demand that has made Japan one of the most attractive and promising markets globally. The government’s 2018 strategic energy plan includes a target of 3.7 to 4.6 percent energy from biomass by 2030.
The FIT for biomass power has created a substantial dedicated biomass power project pipeline of 2.8 gigawatts (GW) of capacity (inclusive of plants with capacities greater than 1 MW) to be commissioned in 2020 and beyond, in addition to 1.5 GW dedicated biomass power capacity already operating. Some of these new plants will further drive demand for wood pellets in Japan, which has seen substantial growth in the past year, and a new supply player: Vietnam.
Until the end of 2018, Canada was the predominant supplier of wood pellets into Japan. In 2019, however, Vietnam is likely to have overtaken Canada as the main supplier. Trade data from the Japanese Ministry of Finance, shows the new landscape.