Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg
Showa Shell biomass power plant in Kawasaki City.
With almost 70 percent of its land covered by forests, Japan is leading a drive to return to wood as a source of cleaner energy.
While projects in the U.K. and the U.S. are experimenting with biomass, Japan is giving favorable tariffs to power producers who burn leftover wood as a way to cut the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
It’s a program that’s so successful that local biomass producers already are having problems meeting demand, and researchers warn there may not be enough raw materials to feed the power stations now being planned. Some environmentalists even question whether the use of biomass is as carbon-free as advertised.
“There are already regions that have been unable to retain the same suppliers because of new projects being planned,” said Norichika Ando, an economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute Co. in Tokyo. “Some are trying so hard that they offer higher prices and seek subsidies” to transport fuel material from other regions, he said.