CEWEP: Waste-to-Energy is a pillar of European energy security

District heating pipeline (Foto: Kroll/Recyclingportal.eu)

Brussels — Members of the European Parliament and representatives of the European Commission and industry discussed the twofold role that Waste-to-Energy plays in sustainable waste management and energy production at a dinner debate in the European Parliament yesterday. Dr. Ella Stengler, CEWEP’s Managing Director, explained that Waste-to-Energy plants thermally treat waste that cannot otherwise be recycled in a sustainable way, helping to divert it from landfills, and use it to produce local energy.

The EU still landfills more than 80 million tonnes of municipal waste despite the major impact landfilling has on the environment. In light of their recent waste target proposals CEWEP urges the Commission to hold to its pledge to phase out landfilling of recyclable and recoverable waste, as this would unleash the full potential of waste as a resource.

By recovering energy from waste, Waste-to-Energy plants contribute to the EU’s energy efficiency goals, replace fossil fuels and help to ensure security of energy supply. Waste-to-Energy is also a pillar of European energy security. It’s potential for 2020 equals a third of current gas imports from Russia.

Connecting more people to district heating

Waste-to-Energy not only produces electricity, but also heat for district heating. In 2012 Waste-to-Energy supplied around 10 percent of the total heat delivered through district heating networks in the European Union, representing 50 TWh (Terawatt hour) per year. The potential for using heat is estimated at 200 TWh per year by 2050. Better infrastructure for district heating and cooling, and diverting more waste from landfill to quality recycling and energy recovery are necessary in order to develop Waste-to-Energy’s full potential for providing district energy. “Connecting more people to district heating rather than heating homes with individual boilers (with high emissions) would additionally contribute to better air quality in our cities”, CEWEP’S Ella Stengler stated.

Lorenzo Zaniboni from Italian multi-utility company, A2A, showed that the cities of Brescia and Milano have doubled their separate waste collection of municipal waste in 15 years to around 40 and 50 percent respectively. The waste that is not good enough for sustainable recycling is sent to the local Waste-to-Energy plants. The plant in Brescia, for instance, treats some 728,000 tonnes per year and produces some 561 GWh of electricity and 805 GWh of heat for district heating. This represents fuel savings of about 150,000 toe (tonnes of oil equivalent) and avoids 400,000 tonnes of CO2-emissions. In Brescia the Waste-to-Energy plant delivers 68 percent of the local district heating demand.

Synergy between Waste-to-Energy and Recycling

In addition to these impressive figures that clearly show the important role Waste-to- Energy can play for safe, clean and sustainable local energy, 15 to 25 percent more materials (e.g. metals) were recycled from the bottom ash of the plants than could have been recycled without waste incineration. The case studies from Italy underlined the synergy between sustainable waste management, including the complementary between Waste-to-Energy and Recycling, and the generation of local and affordable energy.

Given the cross-sectorial role Waste-to-Energy plays, the debate was enhanced by the participation of Ms Paula Abreu-Marques, the Head of Unit for Renewable Energy from DG Energy, and Mr Julio García Burgués, the Head of Unit for Waste Management and Recycling form DG Environment. The event was hosted by CEWEP (Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants) and organised by the European Energy forum. It was held under Chatham house rules.

CEWEP – Confederation of European Waste-to- Energy Plants