The tonnage of residual waste processed at energy from waste (EfW) plants in the UK in 2020 was up 10.5% when compared with 2019, according to a report released by consultancy Tolvik.
In its seventh annual report on UK EfW statistics, published yesterday (12 May), Tolvik said 13.96 million tonnes of residual waste was processed at the UK’s 55 operational plants in 2020.
This is up from 12.6 million tonnes in 2019, itself a rise of 9.9% from 2018, and higher than projected in Tolvik’s report from that year (see letsrecycle.com story).
Residual waste is defined as non-hazardous, solid, combustible mixed waste which remains after recycling activities.
During 2020, UK EfW plants exported 7,762 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity, approximately 2.5% of the UK total net power generation, together with 1,651GWh of heat. Tolvik says improved turbine availability and two new heat-exporting plants meant energy generation increased “significantly”.
“The challenges of 2020 provided the EfW sector with the opportunity to demonstrate its operational resilience”
The report reads: “The UK continues to generate around 70,000 tonnes of residual waste a day, and exports and landfill options are in decline. The challenges of 2020 provided the EfW sector with the opportunity to demonstrate its operational resilience whilst highlighting that, in the understandable search for better carbon solutions for residual waste, stakeholders must be very careful not to lose sight of the critical need for operational reliability.”
At the end of 2020, there were 55 plants which were fully operational or in late commissioning and a further 15 under construction. Tolvik says several new investors entered the sector last year.
The total headline capacity of EfW plants which were operational or under construction during 2020 increased by 1.7Mt when compared with 2019, to 20.20Mt. Tolvik estimates that by 2025 the UK operational capacity will be 18.2Mt.
The report reads: “Of this potential additional EfW capacity, 60% has planning consent – up from 50% in 2019 – suggesting that fewer new projects are now being brought forward and that those applications already in the system are slowly working their way through to planning decisions.”
Data suggests that residual waste inputs to EfW plans in the UK represented 52% of the overall UK residual waste market, up from 46% in 2019.
Tolvik estimates that exports of refuse derived fuel (RDF) from the UK in 2020 declined by around 31% when compared with 2019.
Viridor had the greatest market share by operator based on input tonnages in 2020 for the second year in a row. The waste management company processed more than 3 million tonnes of residual waste, representing a 21.8% share of the market.
Other companies to have a significant share of the market included Veolia (16.7%), Suez (15.5%) and WTI (13%).