Opportunities Unfold for Waste-to-Energy Plant Market as Fossil Fuels Dwindle

Oct. 13, 2011

Lack of technical skills and labor for plant management restrains market growth

The intensifying quest for alternatives to fossil fuels and the need to bridge the energy demand and supply gap has opened up new avenues for the waste-to-energy plant market.

The escalating threat from farming and municipal waste poses serious environment problems. As fossil fuel reserves are fast depleting, there is a pressing need to step up the tempo of research to find alternative methodologies and technologies.

Waste from farms, gardens, industries and municipalities can be utilized to obtain petroleum substitutes, heat and electricity.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan’s "Key Opportunities in Waste-to-Energy Plant Market" research finds that there are a number of new and emerging technologies that are able to produce energy from waste, which could be broadly classified based on the nature of conversion. The two main groups are thermal technologies and non-thermal technologies.

“Hydro-photosynthetic and thermo-chemical transfer processes can help capture carbon dioxide gas emitted by industries to convert into usable synthetic petroleum that has high calorific value,” Technical Insights Senior Research Analyst Avinash Iyer said. “Besides limiting the need for traditional fuels, the technology helps in lowering the total energy costs and cutting greenhouse gases emissions.”

The European Union (EU) had issued a Waste Incineration Directive in December 2000. The directive lays down standards for EU members for the incineration of municipal solid waste. It is aimed at minimizing the negative impacts on the environment and human health resulting from pollutants in air, soil, surface and groundwater from the incineration and co-incineration of waste.

The regulation has provided an impetus for EU members to roll out technically advanced incineration plants to attain high standards in emission control.

With South Asian countries witnessing rapid industrialization and consumer spending, opportunities are proliferating for market participants to recover energy from waste. This will spiral up the growth in the waste-to-energy plant market in the Asia Pacific region. At the same time, with government support, large investments can also be expected in the near future.

Waste-to-energy plants require high levels of expertise for designing and operating the plant using various kinds of wastes and technologies. When an opportunity arises for a waste-to-energy plant to be commissioned, the required local human resources with necessary technical skills for its smooth operation may not be readily available.

For instance, in many Asia Pacific countries, European and North American companies are lending their resources and sharing their expertise. However, language barriers impede the growth of the waste-to-energy companies in these markets.

Waste management is highly regulated within the municipal infrastructure because of a wide range of regulatory goals to protect human health and the environment.

Furthermore, it also promotes waste minimization and recycling, restricts certain types of waste management activities and reduces impact on residents. Though a wide range of waste management legislation and policies exist in the developing countries, regulations that are more stringent are required for greater effectiveness.

North America, the EU and Japan have numerous incineration plants where a majority of industrial wastes is utilized for energy production. However, to cater to the rising energy demand, many more waste-to-energy plants need to be designed and commissioned, and the respective government bodies must extend substantial support.

“In developing countries, controlled incineration of waste is infrequently practiced because of high capital and operating costs, as well as their history of previous unsustainable projects,” said Iyer. “Thus, for successful utilization of industrial waste, appreciable support should be extended by both policy regulators and government bodies.”

Source: Frost & Sullivan

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