Energy from Waste jigsaw still missing crucial pieces
Having attended the highly acclaimed Energy from Waste conference in February, UNTHA UK’s managing director Chris Oldfield considers the extent to which the EfW landscape is in fact a complex jigsaw with some pieces perhaps still missing…
As we gathered at the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons in London, we heard that Energy from Waste is making headway in the UK. Both Government representatives and EfW professionals appeared to agree that we are moving in the right direction, which is certainly encouraging to hear.
However we cannot ignore the fact that we still have a long way to go. In reality the UK’s energy and waste strategies could be better aligned, certainly in England. If there was greater appreciation for the role that ‘waste’ can play in energy generation, and a more informed attitude towards EfW’s position within the waste hierarchy, the landscape would undoubtedly be even more positive.
When digesting key discussion points from the conference, and combining these with our existing industry insight, we were once again reminded of the multifaceted nature of Energy from Waste. There are numerous different factors that need to fit together seamlessly to make the perfect EfW jigsaw.
Firstly let’s start with the Government who – if we believe the comments aired at the conference – are seemingly supportive of EfW growth. This may be the case. However, they appear to be demonstrating greater commitment towards lesser proven technologies such as Advanced Thermal Treatment (ATT). These technologies may promise to be ‘the next big thing’, but one can’t help but fear that highly effective tried and tested methodologies such as Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF), are being overlooked as a result. The examples of successful SRF plants in wider Europe are numerous. If greater Government support was given to these proven EfW approaches in the UK, perhaps this would reduce the number of investment struggles that companies are currently facing domestically.
Which takes us on to investors and the part they play in the EfW jigsaw. It goes without saying that they will be more inclined to invest in established technologies, or certainly technology providers with the right level of EfW experience. This reduces the level of risk associated with a project and is the reason why technology and expertise also constitute valuable pieces of the EfW jigsaw. The crazy thing is that the UK is already host to some incredibly knowledgeable engineers and sophisticated technology providers who could really enhance the country’s approach to EfW. It’s just a matter of making the best use of these resources.
Of course planning restricts EfW progress too, and to a certain degree this falls under the umbrella of public opinion – another fundamental part in our metaphorical jigsaw. Whilst industry professionals may now refer to waste as a resource, there is still some way to go surrounding public attitudes towards waste. For example, EfW plants are still misguidedly regarded by many people as ‘dirty’. This will have an undeniable impact on the progress that EfW is able to make. On the continent, EfW plants are valuable community assets to be proud of, but in the UK it feels as though we are light-years away from this viewpoint.
It could be argued that this all comes back to communication. If we share more success stories with investors, the Government, our industry and the wider public, we should confidence levels rise as a result. We’re not always comfortable with blowing our own trumpets in the UK, however we have developed a number of innovative products, processes and systems to be proud of. It is now a matter of public relations – partnering with the media and educating people beyond the industry – to illustrate what potential there is to be realised. We are a nation with manufacturing in our blood, after all. So, when it comes to producing clean, renewable energies, why don’t we tell others just how good we are and how much more value we could add, if only we were given the opportunity to do so.
As we reflect on the conference and assess the Energy from Waste ‘jigsaw’, it is by no means a complete picture. There is more to be done. However, as EfW professionals, we need to acknowledge the jigsaw’s different crucial pieces and do all that we can to bring them together.
If an Energy from Waste shredder is the missing piece in your alternate fuel jigsaw, please explore our range of innovative RDF and SRF shredders, or find out more about our approach to shredding organic waste for anaerobic digestion. If you need any additional information we are happy to help – call us on 0845 450 5388 for a no obligation chat.