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Asia Taking Lead in Smart Waste-to-Energy Technologies

Researchers estimate that the world generated an estimated two billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW), a number that is expected to grow significantly over the next ten years. One solution is to implement technologies that convert waste into heat and electricity, processes known as waste-to-energy (WTE), which encompass a variety of thermal and biological conversion technologies that extract the usable energy stored in solid waste.

High upfront costs, especially when compared to the relatively cheap costs of using landfills, have prevented widespread WTE adoption. While there are more than 800 thermal WTE plants currently operating in approximately 40 countries, combined these facilities treated just 11 percent of MSW generated worldwide in 2011; landfills were used to dump 70 percent of MSW.

However, a new study by Pike Research, Waste-to-Energy Technology Markets, suggests that waste-to-energy systems will treat at least 261 million tons of waste annually by 2022, with a total estimated output of 283 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and heat generation, up from 221 TWh in 2010. With better adoption, Pike predicts that number could be as high as 396 million tons of MSW a year, producing 429 TWh of power.

An important factor is, there is money to be made by using waste to create power. Pike estimates the global market for thermal and biological WTE technologies will reach at least $6.2 billion in 2012 and could conceivably reach $80.6 billion by 2022.

Senior analyst Mackinnon Lawrence notes, “With many countries facing dramatic population growth, rapid urbanization, rising levels of affluence, and resource scarcity, waste-to-energy is reestablishing itself as an attractive technology option to promote low carbon growth in the crowded renewable energy landscape. China is already in the midst of scaling up capacity, and growth there is expected to shift the center of the WTE universe away from Europe to Asia Pacific.”

WTE facilities are integrated into broader waste management strategies designed to prevent the use of landfills. Although combustion technologies currently lead the market, advanced thermal treatment (ATT) technology deployments such as pyrolysis are expected to increase up as diminishing landfill capacity improves WTE economics. Use of biological technologies is also expected to increase worldwide.

An Executive Summary of Waste-to-Energy Technology Markets is available for free download at www.pikeresearch.com.

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