Prominent UK business group calls for more energy from waste

The CBI is calling for the UK Government to encourage the use of non-recyclable waste to meet the country’s energy needs.

Launching a new report, Going to waste: Making the case for energy from waste, the leading business group highlighted the important role that energy from waste could play in a broad-based energy mix, which improves energy security.

Technologies include using anaerobic digestion, where biological processes produce bio-gas from waste, and incineration. These provide consistent and reliable power supplies, unaffected by the weather, and are not imported.

With strong leadership from the Government on planning, financing and procurement, the UK could quadruple the proportion of energy it generates from waste from 1.5% to 6% by 2015.

And the CBI warned that unless urgent steps are taken to cut landfill use, the UK will face fines from the European Union of around £182.5m a year.

Neil Bentley, CBI Director of Business Environment, said:

“We cannot continue dumping rubbish in landfill sites. Waste that can’t be recycled could be used to heat homes and produce electricity, as well as improving our energy security.

“Across Europe, generating energy from waste is common and compatible with high levels of recycling.

“The Government needs to encourage the development of more anaerobic digestion and incineration plants, and tackle delays in the planning system.”

The report focuses on the family of energy from waste technologies, which can be broadly divided into biological and thermal types. Anaerobic digestion can be used on-site to produce heat and electricity, or injected into the National Grid after being purified.

Thermal treatments include technologies, such as gasification and pyrolysis, which involve heating waste to produce gas, as well as incineration. The CBI argues that non-recyclable waste should be incinerated, and emphasises that it is cleaner, more efficient, and environmentally sounder than burning fossil fuels or relying on landfill.

Among the CBI’s recommendations for the Government are:

  • Recognising the important role that energy from waste could play in reducing the UK’s landfill, securing energy supplies and increasing the proportion of renewable sources;
  • Avoiding picking winners from the various energy from waste technologies and allowing the market to decide the most cost effective option;
  • Reassuring the public that delivering more energy from waste is compatible with high levels of recycling and that new plants are clean and safe.

Echoing her support for the report, Gaynor Hartnell, Chief Executive of the UK Renewable Energy Association (REA) said,

“The Government has already said it wants to encourage Energy from Waste, and it would do well to heed the CBI’s recommendations. Most of the energy content of our household waste is renewable, yet often projects are dogged by overly complex and unnecessary regulation, which prevents them from getting the rewards they are entitled to for generating green energy. A healthy dose of pragmatism would be in everyone’s interests and would enable one of the cheapest forms of green energy to play its part in meeting the UK’s renewables target.”

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