Reducing our dependence upon fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy use is the key to slowing down climate change. The question which is the focus of debate within the European Union today is how can it be done, and can sufficient alternative sustainable energy sources be found to replace the huge rate of depletion of stored sun derived energy that is our current energy use.
There are those that believe that through the development of alternative sources of new energy, such as Energy-from-Waste together with renewable energy sources a considerable reduction of fossil fuel consumption can be achieved. Indeed there is increasing recognition of the contribution that waste can make, and its enormous potential contribution to energy supply in Europe could amount to as much as 5% of Europe’s domestic energy requirement.
Using waste as a fossiliferous fuel substitute means less reliance on fossil fuels. There will be no need to dig up the fossil fuel if the energy it would have provided is being sourced through utilization of waste. Therefore, waste incineration with energy recovery should rightfully be presented is an alternative to fossil fuels i.e. an alternative source of energy.
Unfortunately, it is seldom is spoken of in that light.
Waste which is right now being lost to landfill cannot provide any heat or power nor reduce our dependency on coal and oil. Waste incineration with energy recovery in contrast, acts positively to reduce emissions.
Also, Energy-from-Waste is generally “CO2 neutral”, because most of the carbon from Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) , does not, come from, “fossil” sources such as oil and coal. It is also the most suitable waste management technique that actually reduces dioxin levels.
This can be justified on the basis that more than 80% of the dioxins entering a modern plant are destroyed.
Other aspects which should also be taken into account when judging Energy-from-Waste as an energy source, claimed by one European web source, are:
o Every three tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) burnt for energy saves one tonne of coal – so Energy-from-Waste means less reliance on fossil fuels
o Half of all coal imports to Western Europe could be met through developing Energy-from-Waste throughout all nations. A 10% increase in the use of MSW to generate energy would save two million tonnes of coal per year
o 10-14 million tonnes of oil could be saved annually through full usage of Energy-from-Waste
o Energy-from-Waste plants increase efficiency, replacing and conserving fossil fuels which would otherwise be used for energy generation
o Energy-from-Waste plants decrease CO2 emissions – figures from a Swedish source show that CO2 emissions per MJ in Energy-from-Waste plains (depending on MSW composition) are 1 -2 times less than those from a coal or oil fired thermal power station
o Energy-from-Waste plants reduce the volume of Municipal Solid Waste by 90% and its weight by 70% saving landfill space
o Energy-from- Waste acts as an important clean-up process for a wide variety of micro-pollutants
The European Commission is committed to increasing Energy-from-Waste in order to develop its enormous potential and to include it in official statements by recognising it as an alternative energy source.
Many national governments in Europe now drafted regulatory incentive schemes to prompt the development of clean energy sources. Energy-from-Waste is part of the ongoing discussions regarding the environmental implications of waste incineration.
We should all welcome the environmental and economically sound emission regulations, now in place throughout Europe. The modern Energy-from-Waste plants will be low emissions and Waste Incineration Directive (WID) compliant, as they will be equipped with state-of-of-the-art Air Pollution Control systems (APCs). As a result these plants will not impose any risk to the environment by its emissions.