But the industry needs to reach better incineration efficiency to meet targets to achieve net-zero and international sustainability standards. “The lack of district heating makes the UK EfW plants less efficient than the Nordic plants”, says Country Manager for Geminor UK, Oliver Caunce.
Energy derived from waste is a growing industry and is more important than ever in times of energy crisis in Europe. The latest data released by Footprint Services shows that in 2021, 53 EfW plants in the UK incinerated just over 15 million tonnes of secondary fuels, producing as much as 1.8 GWh energy. This is an increase in secondary fuel tonnage of 400 percent since 2006, which means that no other European country is growing faster on EfW capacity.
Nevertheless, the efficiency of UK plants has not yet reached its potential. This must be increased to contribute to carbon neutrality, says CM at Geminor UK, Oliver Caunce.
“There has not been enough focus on district heating and industrial use of steam as a way of using more energy from incineration. At present, the generators for electricity production combined with heat production only give a utilization rate of about 60 percent in the UK market, while the potential is closer to 100 percent where the system includes district heating or direct energy use of steam”, says Oliver Caunce.
In comparison, many of the Scandinavian EfW plants are fully adapted for the production of both district heating and steam as energy for businesses. This is not only more efficient, but it also reduces the carbon footprint.
As waste volumes are diminishing, competition is getting fiercer regarding waste resources in the UK. After many years of growth, the UK is facing a decline in total tonnage, which in turn has led to a decrease in the export of RDF and SRF. In time, the UK market may turn from being an exporting to becoming an importing market of secondary fuels – much in the same way as Germany and Finland.
With a likely introduction of the ETS system in the UK in 2026 – adding a cost of around 40 Euro per tonne on incineration – the UK WtE plants are forced to dramatically increase efficiency to be competitive, says Oliver Caunce.
“To be competitive, the incineration of secondary fuels such as RDF needs to be just as sustainable in the UK as it is in the Nordics. But to get there we need a leap in the efficiency rate of the EfW plants in this country,” concludes Oliver Caunce, CM at Geminor UK.