Waste to Energy

This is a new form of energy generation being explored by countries in an effort to reduce waste going in to landfills and to use the trash as feedstock for generating power, just as other power plants use coal, oil, or natural gas. The process involves burning fuel that heats water converting it into steam that drives a turbine and creates electricity. The process can reduce a community’s landfill volume by up to 90%, and prevent one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) release for every ton of waste burned. Using waste as a combustion material can reduce landfill volumes significantly.

Waste to Energy prevents one ton of CO2 release for every ton of waste burned thereby eliminating methane that would have otherwise leaked with landfill disposal, as a result it has generated significant interest in the UAE. The country’s waste profile is well-suited for waste-to-energy, although emirate-level government reluctance to raise or, in some cases, charge disposal fees has created complications around financing. A 53 MW facility in Sharjah by Bee’ah, one of the Middle East’s most advanced waste management companies has been commissioned. A 100 MW facility is also under development in Abu Dhabi by the state-backed company Taqa. The UAE has started to look at landfill methane recovery too. A 2 MW facility is operational in Ras Al Khaimah, and a 1 MW facility was commissioned in Dubai in 2013. An initial study estimated potential of 12 MW at one of Dubai’s major landfills. As another facet of waste-to-energy, the Dubai aluminium company Dubal has run a successful pilot for over a year to convert process waste heat into onsite cooling using absorption chillers.

The UAE has a high per capita waste generation, which is primarily disposed at unlined landfills. The planned TAQA 100 MW waste to energy plant with a 90% load factor is expected to combust around 1 million tons per year of municipal solid waste. Since Abu Dhabi generates 33 000 tons of waste per day and Dubai a similar amount, 900 MW potential is reasonable but conservative.

Achievement, challenges and strengths of renewable energy in the UAE

Renewable energy is now economically attractive in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). In fact, a 10% share of renewable energy in the total energy mix could generate annual savings of USD 1.9 billion by 2030 and reduce fossil fuel consumption. When accounting for health and environmental benefits additional net annual savings of USD 1 billion to 3.7 billion by 2030 could be generated.

The most important enabling factor is the empowerment of government agencies to take on a holistic, comparative view of energy costs and to act on these through regulation. In November 2014 the results of a bid for a 100 MW solar PV plant in Dubai were released, setting a world-record low for cost at just US 5.98 cents per kWh and highlighting the competitiveness of solar PV in the Gulf region.

Stay tuned for our next post, which features REmap 2030, a key global initiative. 

Until we rendezvous again,

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