Waste Advantage Magazine

The shifting landscape for renewable energy in the UK

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The UK Government has a commitment to reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 percent by 2050 (from 1990 levels). As a result, the UK landscape surrounding renewable energy is shifting rapidly to help deliver a low carbon future. Recently, there have been a number of national consultations which are likely to have a significant bearing on the future viability of non-fossil fuel based energy provision, including a number of planned energy-fromwaste (EfW) projects. Schemes, which enable the heat produced during the electricity generation process to be captured and distributed via a district heating network, i.e. combined heat and power (CHP), are being given increasing focus and prioritization. From a local perspective, proposed local changes such as those put forward by the Mayor of London to realize greater uptake of decentralized energy systems through advanced conversion technologies, have added further complexity to this shifting landscape.

While the uptake of CHP has been slow in the UK, progress is being made with the recent financial close of a major EfW project in South West Devon. Subject to planning consent, this contract will see German company MVV Umwelt build, operate and maintain a CHP facility in the North Yard of the Devonport naval base in Plymouth. Taking in 245,000 tons of residual waste a year, the company will supply steam and electricity to the naval base under a 25-year energy services agreement with the Ministry of Defense. In order to realize CHP opportunities, the following key factors need to be in place:

  • CHP enabled EfW infrastructure (currently not common in the UK);
  • Heat distribution network(s);
  • Sufficient and predictable heat “baseload”— constant heat demand load;
  • Energy prices (for heat and electricity) which are able to cover the long term infrastructure costs.

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