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Waste-to-energy systems an attractive solution for municipal solid waste globally


July 26, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

July 26, 2012 – According to Pike Research (a part of Navigant’s Energy Practice), nearly three-quarters of the trash discarded worldwide ends up in landfill or open pits. With many countries facing dramatic population growth, rapid urbanization, rising levels of affluence and resource scarcity, systems that convert waste-to-energy (WTE) are becoming an attractive technology option to divert this waste to useful purposes and to promote low carbon growth.

“10 years from now, the world’s rapidly increasing urban population will generate nearly three billion tons of MSW [municipal solid waste] per year, representing an estimated 240GW of untapped energy potential,” said senior research analyst Mackinnon Lawrence. “The escalation in waste generation presents policy makers with a difficult choice: either expand existing landfill capacity (an unappealing but low-cost option in many areas) or invest in new waste-to-energy capacity, which can reduce the overall volume of waste that must be dumped.”

A recent report from Pike shows more than 800 thermal waste-to-energy plants operate in nearly 40 countries around the globe—a number that is expected to grow rapidly over the next decade. By 2022, Pike forecasts at least 261 million tons of municipal solid waste will be converted to baseload power and heat. Under a more optimistic scenario, that figure could reach 396 million tons annually—the equivalent of 429TWh of power.

Pike’s report, “Waste-to-Energy Technology Markets”, analyzes the global market opportunity for WTE across three key technology segments: combustion, gasification and anaerobic digestion. An Executive Summary of the report is available for free download on the Pike Research website.