Europe's energy-from-waste market crippled by delays

- Europe might be the heart of the world's energy-from-waste (EfW) power plants, but the region's continued dominance in this sector is being threatened by slow planning and the economic downturn.

Despite having more than 429 installed EfW plants generating revenues in excess of 3.1 billion euros in 2008, the difficulty in obtaining environmental and related permits has restrained the growth of this market considerably, according to researchers Frost & Sullivan.

"The process of obtaining an environmental permit for the construction of a waste-to-energy plant is quite tedious, and a substantial amount of time is spent on it," said Frost & Sullivan Research Associate Karthikeyan Ravikumar.

"The delay affects the price of raw materials and, thereby, the overall revenues."

The current economic slowdown will also influence the prospects for market expansion by restricting the amount of investment flowing into the waste-to-energy plants business.

Today, a great deal of support exists for the European Union to move away from landfills towards better alternatives, and this has greatly helped the waste-to-energy business. The diversion of waste from landfills has resulted in the planning and commissioning of many EfW power plants in the last five years.

Ravikumar commented: "The most important driver for the waste-to-energy plants market in Europe has been the Landfill Directive and its waste-diversion targets. This has resulted in the diversion of waste from landfills to waste-to-energy plants."

The creation of more EfW plants is seen as one of the best methods for the treatment of waste diverted from landfills, enabling EU nations to successfully reach landfill diversion targets. The other key benefit is the creation of a heat and power source with low carbon emissions.

The UK has been particularly active in this sector in recent months. Last month, the UK government granted permission to Peel Environmental to construct a 95-megawatt (MW) EfW facility in Cheshire that will burn 600,000 tonnes of waste each year.

Planning permission is also being sought for a new EfW incinerator at the Newhurst Quarry in Leicestershire, England. The proposed plant, which will be operated by waste-management company Biffa Limited, will generate 21 MW of electricity by burning 300,000 tonnes of waste annually.


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