EfW helps to decarbonise the energy sector; energy recovered from residual waste replaces the use of fossil fuels for conventional energy production.
A very efficient way of energy recovery from waste is combined heat and power (CHP), which provides heat to urban district heating networks, as well as electricity. While in Europe most of the circa 500 EfW plants are CHP plants, they are not (yet) very common in the UK.
So SELCHP, does not only supply low carbon electricity to the national grid, it also provides homes with heat and hot water and further plans are in the pipeline to expand the district heating system to more heat consumers and residents.
In the UK there is a significant potential to further explore low carbon heat production from waste. A look to Europe shows that in some urban areas with efficient district heating in place, energy from waste already covers more than half of the residents' heat demand – a significant contribution to energy security and air quality, as residents avoid using individual boilers for heating.
EfW also provides renewable energy as half of its generated energy comes from waste of biological origin. At the same time, EfW complements other intermittent renewable energy sources and delivers reliable base-load energy. With regard to the energy that comes from the fossil part of the waste, e.g. plastics, it is important to further reduce this kind of waste. For the unavoidable fossil waste that is responsible for fossil-based carbon dioxide emissions, the EfW sector is looking into possibilities of capture and usage or storage, provided that the necessary framework for its implementation is set up.
Hence, EfW, via all measures mentioned above, has a role to play to contribute to the UK and European targets to become carbon neutral by 2050 and to succeed with a sustainable circular economy.
SELCHP is eager to contribute to these targets by focussing on an efficient use of the recovered energy and to provide benefits to local communities via the delivery of affordable reliable local energy and helping them to reduce their carbon footprint while safeguarding a clean environment.
EfW contributes to the ambitious recycling targets to which the UK is committed as much as the EU, by treating the residues from recycling and sorting facilities and all the waste that is not good enough for recycling, e.g. because it contains substances of concern. Furthermore, the metals that are embedded in the bottom ash, the left over from the EfW process, are recycled and the remaining aggregate material can be used for construction purposes and building roads.
Another important benefit of EfW is helping the country to become less reliant on landfilling. Diverting waste that can be recycled or recovered from landfills has numerous benefits, including greenhouse gas mitigation, environmental and health advantages, and boosting recycling and recovery, hence enabling a circular economy.
This safe and efficient method of treating residual waste prevents the spread of diseases and fulfils a fundamental hygienic task, the importance of which we realise even more now as we face the COVID-19 challenge. The sanitary duty that EfW fulfils for society today is as important as in the past. Remember that in the past, waste was burned as a way to deal with infectious diseases, and even though we have come a long way and today recover efficiently the energy and materials embedded in the waste, hygiene and health are still strongly related.
I would like to encourage you to visit SELCHP and see how the plant works and how it offers value to the community and to society as a whole.
Dr Ella Stengler, LL.D October 2020