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According to new analysis the global waste to energy (WTE) market earned revenues of $17.98 billion in 2012 and will rocket up to $28.57 billion in 2016. More waste-to-energy plants are likely to be created in China, the United Kingdom, Central and Eastern and India, due in part to higher population densities.

Within the latest International W2E Market Bulletin it is clearly shown that the global shift from coal and nuclear power to renewable energy, in order to lower carbon dioxide emission and ensure energy security, is also giving a boost to the Waste-To-Energy plant market.

Waste-to-energy (WTE) or energy-from-waste (EFW) is the process of generating energy in the form of electricity and/or heat from the primary treatment of waste. Waste-To-Energy is a form of energy recovery and most WTE processes produce electricity and/or heat directly through combustion, or produce a combustible fuel commodity, such as methane, methanol, ethanol or synthetic fuels.

WTE plants in some locations are already well-developed and in the process of being modernised to comply with local emission standards, other regions have only just begun installing WTE plants and gaining investor interest.

Energy from waste has a poor historical image in the UK. We have been very dependent on landfill and many of the early incinerators were disposal-only plants, which simply burned waste to reduce its volume. This historical image is persistent but outdated. The introduction of landfill diversion targets in the mid-1990s helped drive a new generation of energy from waste plants, designed to meet new strict emissions standards, and provide valuable low carbon energy.

W2EIn future the United Kingdom is aiming to prevent, reuse and recycle more of our waste, so the amount of residual waste should go down. However, energy from waste will remain important.

Within the UK, plans for a new plant in Northampton could be submitted in early 2016 after the council agreed to grant an option on the land to the developers looking to build it – a joint venture between Rolton Group and Caring Community Energy Company.

In order to maintain the energy output from less residual waste resource the UK will have to divert more of the residual waste that does still exist away from landfill and capture the renewable energy and continue the drive towards better, higher-efficiency energy from waste solutions.

Energy from waste is not just about waste management.

  • The energy it produces is a valuable domestic energy source contributing to energy security.
  • As a partially renewable energy source it can also contribute to our renewable energy targets which are aimed at decarbonising energy generation.
  • It has the added advantage that it is non-intermittent, so it can complement other renewable energy sources such as wind or solar.

When considering the relative environmental benefits of landfill and energy from waste, the most important factor is their potential contribution to climate change. Different amounts of greenhouse gases would be released if the same waste was burned or buried.

For more insight into the International W2E Market, download Issue 2 of the W2E Market Bulletin here.