Loud fanfares for solar, wind and tidal renewable energy sources following recent EU proposals to reduce greenhouse emissions have not drowned out calls from the waste and recycling industry for more emphasis on the potential of energy from waste as a renewable resource.
The EU Climate Change proposals include a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, increasing to 30% when there is an international climate agreement; 20% of total EU energy consumption to come from renewables by 2020; and measures to support the development of carbon capture and storage.
Veolia Environmental Services head of technology Richard Kirkman commented: "We believe that energy recovery, and in terms of preparation of fuels, mechanical and biological treatments (MBT) are critical to the UK's energy renewable targets. Dedicated energy recovery facilities will become more important since they already contribute to renewables for the 60% to 70% biomass element of the waste stream contained within them and with MBT we can potentially further concentrate this fraction to deliver biomass incinerators, a 100% carbon neutral renewable energy source."
But in Business Secretary John Huttons outline of the UKs strategy to meet the targets he said the UK is looking at vast expansions of wind energy offshore and tidal power on the Severn. He did add that other low carbon technologies must be part of the mix too but did not mention energy from waste streams specifically.
The commissions proposals for the UK would benefit from such developments. Proposals include: a reduction of 16% in UK greenhouse gases from sectors not covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme by 2020 from 2005; for 15% of the energy consumed in the UK to come from renewable sources by 2020; for 10% of road transport fuels to come from renewable sources, subject to them being produced in a sustainable way.
Image: Energy from waste plant SELCHP in Deptford, London