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Statistics Explains Electricity Production from Bioenergy in Japan

Takanobu Aikawa, Senior Researcher, Renewable Energy Institute

8 September 2021

in Japanese

From this year’s update of the bioenergy section in the statistics page, Renewable Energy Institute has started to post data on bioenergy electricity production based on the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)’s Electricity Statistics, to contribute to future policy discussions by correctly understanding the various types of bioenergy power production, such as co-firing and autoproducers, as well as feed-in tariff (FiT) projects. 

The Electricity Statistics is an official survey of all power producers with a capacity of more than 1 megawatt (MW) consisting of monthly preliminary reports and annual total publications. Power generation from small-scale facilities of less than 1 MW is reported as “power received from non-utilities”.

In the statistics, besides biomass dedicated power plants, the amount of electricity generated by biomass co-firing in coal-fired power plants is also captured. Therefore, it is possible to calculate the ratio of biomass to coal, although it is not for each power plant but for each company. Since the names of all power generation companies are disclosed, it is possible to analyze the data on an individual company basis and to classify them based on the company names. In addition, the data for autoproducers is also collected on regional and national bases.

Based on the above, the following graph shows the amount of electricity generated by each type for the two fiscal years (FY) 2019 and 2020.
Electricity Production from Bioenergy in Japan

Note 1: The amount of biomass power generated by thermal power generation, which is recorded as an internal number in parentheses, was counted for co-firing.
Note 2: The amount of electricity received from facilities with less than 1MW capacity is recorded for ”Dedicated biomass (small).
Source: By REI, from figures on METI/ANRE “Electricity Statistics”(accessed in August 2021)

Japanese total power generation from bioenergy, as supplemented by the Electricity Statistics, was 31.4 terawatt-hours (TWh) in FY 2019 and 36.1 TWh in FY 2020, a rather significant increase of 15 percent (%). This increase can be attributed to the dedicated biomass-fired power plants, which are mainly supported by the FiT. 

On the other hand, in the METI’s calculations used in the discussions of the new Basic Energy Plan, values from the time series table of the Total Energy Statistics, an energy balance table to report all types of energy flow from production to end-use, are presumably used, and the amount of electricity from bioenergy in FY 2019 is reported as 26.2 TWh “only,”1 which is about 5 TWh smaller than in the Electricity Statistics. It is presumed that METI’s data only covers the amount of power generation under the FIT and RPS systems. In contrast, the Electricity Statistics presented here includes the amount of power generated by autoproducers (7 TWh) and the electricity from biomass cofiring of coal-fired power plants that have not been certified under FiT (9 TWh), which is thought to be the difference between the two.    

Japan’s Basic Energy Plan does not seem to take into account autoproducers, but given that it is accounted for in the International Energy Agency (IEA)’s annual statistics, the amount of renewable energy generation reported by Japan may be underestimated from the international perspective2. The difference is particularly large in the case of bioenergy, where the generation of autoproducers is large, mainly due to the significant use of black liquor and waste wood at the pulp and paper industry.

The total amount of bioelectricity from co-firing of all types of producers (i.e. utilities, IPPs, industry and autoproducers) can be calculated as about 16 TWh, which is equivalent to 51% of the total bioelectricity production in FY 2019 and 44% in FY 2020, respectively. In the policy discussion of the phasing-out of low-efficiency coal-fired power plants, it is allowed to calculate power generation efficiency with deducting coal energy input equivalently to that of biomass. Therefore, it is also critical to continue to accurately monitor the amount of electricity generation of biomass co-firing in coal-fired power plants.   

Renewable Energy Institute will continue to accurately assess the current situation based on data and make constructive policy recommendations.

External Links

  • JCI 気候変動イニシアティブ
  • 自然エネルギーで豊かな日本を創ろう!アクション
  • irelp
  • 全球能源互联网发展合作组织

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