Smart technology applications in the woody biomass supply chain: interview insights and potential in Japan

  • Amanda AhlEmail author
  • Mika Goto
  • Masaru Yarime
Special Feature: Original Article Developing Sustainable Bio-Energy Systems in Asia
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Feature: Developing Sustainable Bio-Energy Systems in Asia


In light of climate change, there is pressure worldwide to curb emissions via energy efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy. Woody biomass has a role in sustainable energy transitions, contributing to emissions reduction, economic development, and energy security as a dispatchable resource. This potential is recognized globally, but the woody biomass supply chain has faced technical and social challenges. Smart technologies are increasingly discussed in discourse on supply chain management, such as their potential to improve transparency and efficiency. Despite a variety of research related to woody biomass as well as smart technologies, little attention has been given to integrating the two perspectives. This study explores this intersection by highlighting smart technologies and mechanisms by which they may contribute to overcoming challenges in the woody biomass supply chain, exemplified by the case of Japan. Based on qualitative expert interviews, exploratory results suggest potential of smart technologies that would contribute to addressing both social and technical challenges of woody biomass in Japan. These challenges include transportation infrastructure, biomass quality management, business model integration (cascading), stakeholder relationship management, and local community revitalization and socioeconomic development. This contribution is based on various mechanisms such as improved transparency, information-sharing, accountability, automation, and value maximization. The results of this paper delineate a potential future development path that integrates smart technologies, woody biomass supply chains, and sustainability goals. This is an important further consideration for energy policy in academia, industry, as well as government.


Smart technology Woody biomass Supply chain Decentralized energy Bioenergy Japan 



The authors would like to thank the following interviewees for participation in this study (in alphabetical order): Boris Dudder (University of Copenhagen), Christoph Strasser (Bioenergy 2020 + GmbH), Daniel Buchner (DBFZ, Germany), Daniela Thrän (Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research), David Chiaramonti (University of Florence), Edward Sumoto (Tata Group), Eric van den Huevel (studio Gear Up), Hironao Matsubara (Institute of Sustainable Energy Policies, Japan), Hiroyuki Akiba (Japan Woody Biomass Association), Jonas Brändström (Vinnova), Kohei Izutsu (Sonraku Corporation), Rachel Emerson (Idaho National Laboratory), Shintaro Chono (SymEnergy), Sylvain Volpe (FPI Innovations), Takanobu Aikawa (Renewable Energy Institute, Japan), Takeo Kato (Japan Woody Biomass Association), Tetsuya Maruta (NRI), Victor G. Walker (Idaho National Laboratory), Volker Lenz (DBFZ, Germany), Yoshiki Yamagata (National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan).


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© Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Innovation Science, School of Environment and SocietyTokyo Institute of TechnologyMinatoJapan
  2. 2.Division of Public PolicyThe Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyKowloonHong Kong
  3. 3.Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public PolicyUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  4. 4.Graduate School of Public PolicyThe University of TokyoBunkyoJapan

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