22nd, October 2023

Waste-to-Energy: The Environmental and Economic Benefits

The world is witnessing an alarming surge in waste generation due to a range of factors, including growth of the global population, urbanisation and economic growth. This increase has become a major source of environmental pollution. The annual waste generation is expected to increase by 73% from 2020 levels to 3.88 billion tons in 2050. In response to this alarming rise in waste generation, countries around the world have begun implementing various initiatives aimed at addressing the growing volumes of waste being produced.

What is Waste-to-Energy?

Waste-to-Energy (WtE) is one of the key initiatives launched to address waste management challenges. WtE turns the non-recyclable waste to useful energy and raw materials in a sustainable manner. The waste that cannot be recycled is converted to energy in the form of heat, steam or electricity, which is then fed into the grid and distributed to households, industries, and communities. WtE provides a cost effective and hygienic alternative to treat residual waste, reducing its volume by up to 90%. WtE can also bring about economic, social, and environmental co-benefits through efficient use of natural resources, reduced emissions, job creation, and fostering innovation.

The UAE’s WtE Plants

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is one of the leading countries that has adopted various initiatives aimed at generating energy in the form of electricity or heat from the primary treatment of waste. For example, Tadweer, in cooperation with the Emirates Water and Electricity Company EWEC, is developing a WtE power plant. The plant will convert waste to energy via a high-efficiency steam turbine generator set, using advanced moving grate technology. The WtE plant, which will be one of the largest waste-to-energy facilities in the region, will process 900,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per year, and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 1.5 million tonnes per year, contributing to the mitigation of climate change.

Tadweer and EWEC’s waste-to-energy plant supports the country’s Renewable Energy Strategy 2050. This strategy aims to increase clean energy contributions from 25 percent to 50 percent by 2050, reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70 percent, and save AED 700 billion.

Major Benefits:

1. Reduced Emissions
WtE contributes to driving environmental sustainability by reducing reliance on fossil fuels, diverting waste from landfills, and promoting the recovery of valuable raw materials. This leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly because carbon dioxide resulting from waste combustion has a significantly lower impact on global warming compared to the methane emissions from waste decomposition. Over a 100-year period, methane has 28 times the global warming potential than carbon dioxide and is 84 times more potent on a 20-year timescale.

2. Harnessing Advanced Technologies
Tadweer and EWEC’s waste-to-energy project is a testament to cutting-edge innovation and a commitment to environmental sustainability. At the heart of this project lies a sophisticated grate/furnace/boiler unit, complemented by an advanced flue gas treatment system, ensuring optimal waste conversion. The facility also features a state-of-the-art turbine/generator/cooling system, amplifying energy production efficiency. But Tadweer’s vision goes beyond just technology; the project incorporates essential infrastructure, from access roads to critical Category 2 Interfaces. From the initial development stages to long-term operation and maintenance, we’re dedicated to delivering a facility that stands as a beacon of sustainable energy solutions for our community.

3. Job creation
Aside from WtE’s key role in driving environmental sustainability, it also contributes to creating new jobs in the market. This includes roles in waste collection and transportation, research, engineering, environmental compliance and more. WtE facilities also contribute to creating training opportunities, which supports building the next generation of skilled experts. According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the number of global employment opportunities in WtE was equivalent to 39,000 jobs in 2021. As more cities are looking to divert waste from landfills and exploring building a WtE plant, the number of jobs is expected to rise in the field.