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Balancing formal and informal success factors perceived by supply chain stakeholders: A study of woody biomass energy systems in Japan

Ahl, Amanda, Eklund, Johanna, Lundqvist, Per, Yarime, Masaru
Journal of cleaner production 2018 v.175 pp. 50-59
bioenergy, biomass, business enterprises, emissions, energy, energy policy, forest certification, forests, heat, infrastructure, interviews, models, quality control, stakeholders, supply chain, traditions, transportation, wood, Japan
Small-scale woody biomass energy systems have an inherent ability to aid in emissions reduction while stimulating local economies and, as collective energy systems, are strongly connected to supply chain design based on local conditions and stakeholder integration. Despite an abundance of forest area alongside the promotion of biomass in energy policies, however, woody biomass utilization still remains low in Japan. The woody biomass supply chain, considered as a socio-technical system, involves a complex, cross-sectoral stakeholder network in which inter-organizational dynamics necessitates well-organized management based on an understanding of formal factors such as technology, as well as informal factors such as social relations and culture. In this paper, success factor perceptions from across the woody biomass supply chain are investigated based on semi-structured interviews with four stakeholders in the Kyushu region of Japan. Identified success factors here are: 1) respect of values & traditions, 2) transportation infrastructure, 3) business model integration, 4) relationship & trust, 5) local vitalization and 6) biomass quality control. A convergence as well as divergence of perceptions are observed, involving both formal and informal dimensions. Aiming to balance perceptions and to enable long-term success of woody biomass in Japan, a series of policy implications are drawn, including cross-ministerial integration, knowledge building on wood logistics, forest certification, local coordinators, biomass quality control standards and a feed-in-tariff for heat. This paper suggests a new arena of policy-making based on the importance of considering both informal and formal dimensions in energy policy.