Up to 10 energy-from-waste (EfW) plants a year until 2020 could be built to bridge a residual waste treatment capacity gap in the UK, the Green Investment Bank has indicated.
The bank is the latest organisation to predict that the UK will have insufficent infrastructure to divert waste from landfill, after Sita UK, Veolia, and Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (see table below) put forward similar warnings. On the other hand, Defra and the consultancy Eunomia have separately argued that UK will have enough infrastructure to treat residual waste and meet landfill EU-set landfill diversion targets by 2020.
The GIB, in ‘The UK residual waste market’, a report written in partnership with Tolvik Consulting, forecasts residual waste to be 22.4 - 26.5 million tonnes by 2020, down from 27.7 million tonnes in 2012.
But it still identified a potential gap of between 4 million tonnes and 7.7 million tonnes in EfW treatment capacity. Such a shortfall represents a £5bn investment opportunity in energy recovery infrastructure, the equivalent of 10 facilities a year until the end of the decade, the GIB said.
The bank stressed its analysis concentrated on commercial and industrial waste and the development of merchant facilities. It is intended to reassure investors backing developments in the commercial sector.
“The project pipeline is increasingly focused on processing commercial and industrial waste, often using advanced conversion technologies. We are confident that this changing landscape can continue to provide attractive investment opportunities,” said Chris Holmes, managing director at the UK Green Investment Bank.
“We stand ready to back the next generation of UK waste projects, many of which we hope to see using some of the exciting newer technologies that have come to the market in recent years.”
Much of the UK’s household waste is already being managed through public-private partnership contracts with local authorities, he added. The bank forecast that such contracts will result in some 11.9 million tonnes EfW projects coming online by 2020.
The GIB said its findings were in line with some “leading waste market participants’ reports”, such as Sita’s, which predicted a 11.7 million tonnes gap by 2020.
The main difference between the two studies, according to the bank, is that the GIB assumed more “conservative” recycling rates. Sita also considered merchant facilities that are currently being planned, which were excluded from the GIB review. The Veolia and CIWM analysis considered a wider range of treatment options and different geographies.