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Energy from waste is the process of producing energy, usually electricity/and or heat from the combustion process, producing a fuel commodity in the process.

Energy from waste facilities are often expensive to build, and the diversity of renewable energy sources does bring about its own set of challenges, but do the benefits outweigh the initial cost? 

Glenigan's resident Energy Sector expert Caroline Lockyer considers; with all the `green’ and renewable energy targets that have been set, what progress is being made and which regions of Great Britain are leading the way in the industry?

Scotland is looking to the future, with new targets set by the First Minister to generate the equivalent of half of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewable energy by 2015. It was reported that the amount of green energy used to power homes and business in the Country has reached a record high. Scotland are firmly on course for 100% of electricity demand from renewables by 2020, and at the moment, more than a third of the entire UK’s renewable output is from Scotland. Much of the output will be from wind farms. 

In England, we have witnessed an increase in the number of proposals for wood fired biomass projects. The knock on effect is this could generate more employment, as the wood needs to be brought across the Atlantic and ports could be upgraded accordingly. The Government claims that burning biomass is carbon neutral and offers subsidies to power stations converting from coal to wood.

The amount of biomass burned for electricity has doubled over the past year to about 3 million tonnes and expected to increase at least ten fold by 2017, indicating that most of the wood will have to come from abroad. 

Drax, the country’s biggest coal-fired power station, is aiming to take half of its fuel from biomass (Project id 09264899) and Eggborough (Project id 12128729) has announced its intention to fully convert to burning wood.

Equally we are seeing other energy from waste projects moving forward in England, Devon’s Energy from Waste (09331531), the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre (08259055) and the Cross Green project in Leeds (08352269) are all at contract awarded stage, with the two South West project now under construction. These projects will see the burning of residual waste to produce energy, offering a widespread alternative to dumping residential waste in landfill.

Once again, Scotland are leading the way here, they have a Zero Waste plan, where they see all waste as a resource and these valuable resources will NOT be sent to landfill. The widely reported £200 million energy from waste scheme proposed in Oxwellmains in Dunbar, Lothian (08104534) is close to being awarded a contract, seeing another move forward for their aim on Zero Waste.

Wales have hardly had a mention here, but on the 5th August 2013, the residual waste treatment plant, currently under construction at Trident Park in Cardiff (08509573) has just received £105 million funding from the Welsh Government. Works will also start early in 2015 on the £300 million energy from waste project in North Wales (09305981). The project is being headed up by the North Wales Residual Waste Treatment Partnership (NWRWTP), collaboration between Flintshire County Council, the Isle of Anglesey County Council, Conwy County Borough Council, Denbighshire County Council and Gwynedd Council. This project will see an investment of £800 million over the next 25 years, so Wales are also investing in their `green future’.

Finally, it’s interesting to note, that the majority of energy from waste projects were proposed, on average, approximately five years ago. Great resistance has been shown to these type of schemes UK-wide, seeing some proposals fall by the wayside or undergo extensive re-design. The main concerns voiced by communities are the smell, depending on what is proposed to be burnt, the amount of lorries carrying the material to the waste site and also the size of chimneys, and health concerns. All these concerns will remain, but it’s interesting to note, that a very low percentage of opinion is focused on what happens if these alternative energy sources are not built?

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