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Mental Model Analysis of Biogas Energy Perceptions and Policy Reveals Potential Constraints in a Japanese Farm Community

Masayasu Asai (), Takashi Hayashi () and Mitasu Yamamoto ()
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Masayasu Asai: Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (PRIMAFF), 3-1-1, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0013, Japan
Takashi Hayashi: Policy Research Institute, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (PRIMAFF), 3-1-1, Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0013, Japan
Mitasu Yamamoto: Graduate School of Commerce, Major in Entrepreneurship, Otaru University of Commerce, Midori 3-5-21, Otaru, Hokkaido 047-8501, Japan

Sustainability, 2019, vol. 11, issue 1, 1-20

Abstract: Biogas systems are complex and involve many local stakeholders who produce and utilize energy and digestate. If the systems are managed properly, they offer environmental and socioeconomic benefits to the community. However, further expansion may be challenging when differences in values and perspectives exist among stakeholders. This study analyzed perceptions among local biogas stakeholders by using a mental model approach. A local community in a northern Japanese island was chosen as a case study, and 22 stakeholders were asked to develop individual mental models of the biogas system. We found that many stakeholders shared the cognitive benefits of biogas, while there were perception differences regarding digestate use. Arable farmers mentioned technical and non-technical constraints for accepting digestate, while dairy and non-farmers were ambivalent about these demand-side constraints. This perception difference may lead to potential obstacles for future expansion of biogas systems in the region. Therefore, biogas policy should incorporate actions for better usage of digestate. These include the mandatory planning of digestate use when designing a new biogas plant, as well as actions to improve the attractiveness of digestate for arable farmers. These findings are useful for other livestock-intensive areas where the number of biogas plants is rapidly increasing but digestate management is yet organized.

Keywords: biogas; digestate; stakeholder; mental models; dairy and arable farmers; circular economy (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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