The conversation around the UK energy crisis is now reaching boiling point. High demand for imported fossil fuels, limited supply and increased competition from Asia is leaving us all to face exorbitant energy price rises on home soil. The burning question is; will red-hot market rates for fossil fuels drive an even more insatiable appetite for waste from the Energy from Waste (EfW) sector? And will these market forces alone be enough to upset the waste hierarchy?
Many energy market analysts say the writing has been on the wall for a long time in regards to the current energy crisis. The UK’s high dependency on imported fossil fuels always leaves us highly exposed to price rises when global demand surges. As China and the rest of Asia begin to crawl out of their Covid hibernation, their appetite for gas has been dramatically increasing. In the last month alone, the wholesale price of gas has shot up 70% in the UK. This is a scary trend that’s set to continue, and almost certainly escalate, as the cooler months roll in.
What’s the alternative to imported fossil fuels?
Although the UK has made headway in recent years with greener energy solutions like wind power, we are currently experiencing the least windy year since 1961. Reliance on wind alone can be as fickle as, well, the UK’s weather. Our gas storage capabilities aren’t up to the task of absorbing market fluctuations either. In fact, the UK has the lowest gas storage capabilities in all of Europe with just 1% of Europe’s gas supply held on UK soil. Coal-fired power plants are even being brought back online to help ease the demand for expensive imported energy. Although coal brings a number of negative factors into the mix like hindering the UK’s climate and emissions targets, the threat to industry and the residential sectors is simply too great for coal not to enter the energy mix again. Nuclear power is coming back in favor but with a number of nuclear power plants currently in maintenance and servicing cycles we are still coming up short on the energy equation.
This market pinch is starting to feel more like a punch that’s going to leave a lasting bruise in the way of costs for businesses. Enter the EfW sector and its current 2.5% contribution to the UK’s overall yearly energy supply. Waste for energy has always had its supporters and its critics too. EfW has its place in the waste hierarchy with the generally accepted order being prevention, re-use, recycling, recovery (including EfW) and finally, disposal. But as skyrocketing prices hit the energy market the team at GPT are already witnessing the waste hierarchy be upended.
While recycling is the golden child of sustainability after prevention and re-use, it’s the energy price rises that are turning the temptation to turn waste, and almost ALL waste, into energy rather than process it through recycling. EfW plants have an insatiable hunger for waste and as the energy prices rise, so does the attraction of creating and selling energy in the UK market.
For many firms, the upheaval of the waste hierarchy is of concern as it may impact their green credentials, not to mention harm their ability to have a positive, or at least, a lighter carbon footprint. From our standpoint at GPT, we definitely believe the EfW sector has an important and growing role in the production of energy both in the UK and around the world. Critically, however, EfW has a role to play in the reduction of waste that goes to landfills. Wherever possible, this shouldn’t come at the cost of effective re-use or recycling.
GPT Waste is proud to offer our waste clients transparency in a fractious and changing waste market. We offer a strategic review of your waste management requirements in order to identify environmental and cost benefits. Our approach has made us the UK’s leading independent waste management company. To speak to our expert team about your waste management requirements, call 0844 854 5000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.