I was put on the spot at a recent conference when asked for my view of the energy-from-waste (EfW) sector - essentially energy recovery.
A tweet from a panellist, Suez technical director Stuart Hayward-Higham, did a decent job of summing up my contribution: “EfW is a necessary part of the mix in the transition to a more circular world.” Forty years ago, waste management was very different; 40 years from now, it will be different again. To some extent, EfW is a means to an end.
Arguments for and against are well known and this week we are expected to see the Torvik report-of-reports commissioned by the ESA to try to resolve the claims and counterclaims about overcapacity in the UK market.
I was struck by the upbeat nature of the conference, which was staged by Siemens UK – despite this being a year in which no major NEW facilities reached financial close or began construction.
Matthew Knight, the company’s director of energy strategy and government affairs, said renewable energy in general had become “sexy” as policy-makers realise that costs are coming down and the need for subsidies is diminishing. The low strike price in the latest contracts for difference auction had had a powerful impact.
The most important consequence of more ‘affordable’ schemes seems to be greater opportunity for privately funded merchant plants: the more they are capable of standing on their own two feet, the more likely investors are to buy in.
Just as impressive were examples of the ‘decentralisation’ of power generation. The failure of Air Products’ large Tees Valley schemes undermined trust in advanced conversion technology, but versions of pyrolysis or gasification are now being developed on a smaller scale, such that future homes might have their own off-grid EfW ‘facility’. An interesting development indeed.
The growing list of Government policy statements around infrastructure and renewable heat, energy and fuels, suggest the negative years of the Cameron administration in the ’green sector’ are now well behind us.