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EfW report clears up the fog surrounding the industry

Keith Riley

It will never outsell Harry Potter, but Tolvik Consulting’s “UK Energy from Waste Statistics – 2016” is just as enthralling a read for those of us that like this sort of thing. It tells a fascinating tale of discovery, unfurls some mysteries, and even has a dash of wizardry.

This 20 page report from the consultancy that has specialised in advising financial institutions on waste availability, can claim to be the most comprehensive pocket book of statistics on energy from waste (EfW) in the UK published to date. While excluding Jersey, the Isle of Man, cement kilns and waste wood/biomass, this does not detract from what is a useful consolidation of information that is welcomed and well overdue.

Recording that there were 37 operational and 4 EfW plants under construction in 2016, If nothing else, the report demonstrates clearly that EfW is now well established, and an important part of the country’s waste management solution.

It shows how in just a decade, the waste processed by thermal treatment has trebled, while that going to landfill has nearly halved. Looking forward, it anticipates an industry that will continue to grow.

It also shows that with over 5.2 GWh being generated in 2016, EfW is now making a significant contribution towards meeting the nation’s demand for electricity. Not the case with heat, however, that still struggles to become established - but is no surprise.

The report gives a good insight to the make–up of the industry. Despite subsidies including ROCs and CfDs providing Government support to certain technologies, in 2016 the EfW industry was still very consolidated, with smaller players holding less than 4% of market share. The giants of the industry, Veolia, Viridor, Suez and FCC dominate the operator league table with Cory able to make 6th place with just one plant.

While some of the information provided, such as parasitic load, and operational risk appraisal scoring does not mean very much, and some, such as R1 could be said to be misleading (in that most plants will meet R1, its just that they have not applied for it), the report is a good compendium of data that will help end some of the myths, clear some of the mystery and hopefully break down some of the barriers faced by developers in this sector.

It is, of course, just a snapshot in time and the industry will continue to develop and change. The gate fees reported are soon out of date as will be the snapshot on refuse-derived fuel export.

The report is, however, easily to read, with a clear and concise presentation that removes the fog suffered by official Government publications on the subject. While the presentation of some of the figures could be improved, this report is a good step forward.

So it’s a thank you to Tolvik, and let’s have some more of the same next year. The train has left Platform 9 ¾ at last.

Keith Riley is a partner at EnergyGap LLP

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