Page 55 - European Energy Innovation - Spring 2016 publication
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Spring 2016 European Energy Innovation    55


Waste-to-Energy in the European Union

By Lighea Speziale and Lorenzo Ceccherini

Every year around 250 million             This short article focuses on energy      energy in the energy market and
            tonnes of municipal waste     efficiency of the WtE process, showing    the 40% further greenhouse gas
            are produced across the 28    some virtuous example of existing         reduction. In addition, the European
            European countries. New       plants across Europe.                     Council committed the EU in 2009 to
 Circular Economy Targets, set by the                                               decarbonize its energy system by at
 European Commission at the end of        WASTE-TO-ENERGY IN THE                    least 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.
 2015, require that at least 65% of this  EUROPEAN UNION                            As thermal energy represents around
 amount should be prepared for re-use     During 2013, about 82 million tonnes      45% of total energy consumption,
 or recycled by 2030. In cooperation      of household and similar waste that       renewable heating and cooling are
 with Recycling, European Waste-to-       remains after prevention, reuse and       vital to achieve this goal.
 Energy (WtE, incineration with energy    recycling was treated in 457 WtE plants
 recovery) plants help Member States      in Europe (EU28+CH and NO). From          The European Commission’s Energy
 divert waste that cannot be recycled     this waste around 33 TWh of electricity   Union package announced in February
 from landfilling, thus achieving the     and 82 TWh of heat were generated,        2015 suggested that exploiting the
 maximum reduction of environmental       sufficient to completely satisfy          potential of waste to energy would
 impact. Residual Waste which would       the electricity needs of 15 million       help to further establish synergies
 otherwise be buried in landfills         inhabitants and the heat needs of 14      between energy efficiency policies,
 is better used when it can supply        million, and at the same time capable     resource efficiency policies and the
 electricity and heat as a secure and     of replacing fossil fuels, such as coal,  circular economy.
 affordable source.                       gas and oil, used by conventional
                                          power plants.                             The electricity and heat produced in
 Together with District Heat (DH) for                                               WtE plants also follow the “Energy
 households, the WtE sector worked        WtE is involved in EU environment         efficiency first” principle promoted by
 extensively to improve the connection    as well as energy policy and helps        the European Commission, powering
 with industries, in order to provide     reaching the EU targets for renewable     the synergy between energy-
 efficient, cost-effective energy that    energy. In average, 50% of energy         consuming industrial activities and
 allows diversifying their energy         produced in WtE plants qualifies as       energy providers (that e.g. produce
 supply, reducing carbon footprint and    renewable, thus helping to reach the      energy as a by-product of other
 reaching sustainability objectives.      2030 target of 27% share of renewable     industrial activities). European Waste-
                                                                                    to-Energy plants provide such synergy
 Render of the new Copenhagen plant                                                 by treating residual waste
                                                                                    and at the same time producing
                                                                                    energy in the CHP (Combined Heat
                                                                                    and Power) mode or as electricity/heat

                                                                                    ENERGY EFFICIENCY IN WASTE-TO-
                                                                                    ENERGY TECHNOLOGIES
                                                                                    In Europe, around 60% of WtE plants
                                                                                    are CHP, recovering both electricity
                                                                                    and heat from the energy content
                                                                                    of residual waste and providing
                                                                                    affordable and secure energy to the
                                                                                    neighbour houses, public services
                                                                                    and industries. Around 50 TWh were
                                                                                    provided to DH networks from WtE
                                                                                    plants in 2010 and potentially in
                                                                                    2050 the contribution could raise
                                                                                    up to 200 TWh, with the appropriate
                                                                                    investment to improve infrastructure
                                                                                    and connections between the energy
                                                                                    providers and the networks.
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