Waste-to-Energy (WtE) Market

Global Industry Analysis (2017 – 2020) – Growth Trends and Market Forecast (2021 – 2025)


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Demand for energy is increasing despite excess depletion of oil and gas reserves. Waste-to-energy (WtE) provides a secondary route for energy generation. It is a process in which energy is generated from the treatment of waste, thus turning waste into a source of power generation.

According to the World Bank estimates, the world’s waste generation is projected to nearly double in volume by 2025 and reach 6 million tons of waste per day. Several countries are opting for alternate sources of energy due to restricted land filling, growing environmental issues, and high volatility in fuel prices.

WtE not only solves environmental problems related to waste by reducing the volume but also decreases the greenhouse gas emissions in the long run. Hence, the potential to make waste useful will boost the growth of the market in the coming years.

Stringent MSW Management Regulations to Drive Electricity Generation through Alternate Routes

Factors such as rising investments in renewable energy, Paris climate change agreement, and growing concerns regarding disposal of waste ecologically are expected to drive the demand for waste-to-energy across the globe. Government subsidies and environmental regulations in Europe, Asia Pacific, and North America are projected to help entrants to establish themselves in the waste-to-energy market.

The major restraint for waste-to-energy plants is the initial high capital cost. According to the Waste to Energy Research and Technology Council (WTERT), a plant with a capacity to process a thousand tons of waste every day can cost between US$ 110 Mn to US$ 140 Mn to begin with.

Furthermore, natural gas is positioned as a substitute for renewable gases due to its lower cost. This pricing and positioning has been identified as a threat to the market. In addition, it also a challenge to other external substitutions of energy generation alternatives such as wind, solar, and geothermal. Also, various countries and regions are investing in renewable sources of energy other than waste-to-energy plants.

In recent years, increased waste generation and narrowed prospects for landfill have brought strong growth prospects for the WtE industry. Not only is the world population growing, it is also becoming increasingly urbanised. This leads to greater levels of waste being generated globally in more concentrated levels and in closer proximity to large urban areas. These issues have brought attention on waste management frameworks, with increased interest in alternatives to landfill.

As a result, municipalities worldwide are considering the functionality of WtE plants to help deal with mounting waste being generated. This serves as the key opportunity for development of WtE facilities across the globe

Thermal Conversion Technology Stands Out; Biological Conversion to Follow Suit

Currently, in terms of technology, the thermal segment dominates the global Wte market. Incineration is an extensively adopted process due to its ability to reduce the volume of waste to about 90% and weight by approximately 75% percent of the original waste, thus reducing the amount of waste in landfills. The bottom ash produced from incineration plants is used by construction companies, which, in turn, reduces the burden on landfills.

Currently, incineration is the only WtE technology that is economically viable and operationally feasible at a commercial scale. Heat recovered from the incineration process can be further used either for direct water and space heating purposes or to power turbines for the generation of electricity.

Europe Leads in Terms of Installed Wte Capacity

Globally, more than 400 MTPA capacity of WtE facilities were operational in 2019 with more than 1,100 active WtE plants. However, data indicates that Europe dominates the market in terms of installed capacity of WtE plants.

Meanwhile, Asia Pacific accounts for a large share of the global waste-to-energy market after Europe. China, Japan, South Korea and Australia are the major markets in Asia Pacific in terms of waste-to-energy facilities. In India, the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, is implementing a programme to provide subsidy of around US$ 310 thousand per MW (maximum US$ 1.55 Mn per project) for five new MSW waste-to-energy plants.

In addition, China has laid down an ambitious sustainable waste treatment and landfill avoidance goals. Its 13th Five-Year Plan calls for approximately 600,000 tonnes per day of energy from waste (EfW) capacity by the end of 2020. This would roughly translate to oubling of the installed capacity as of the end of 2015.Considering these policies, over 200 new EfW facilities are expected to be built in China between 2020 and 2030. This is expected to benefit the demand for WtE in Asia Pacific.

On the other hand, North America has the huge potential for waste-to-energy market. The U.S. is the leading country in North America in terms of waste-to-energy plant installations. The number of countries accepting the Paris Climate Change Agreement has been increasing significantly across the globe. This agreement enforces countries to increase the share of renewable sources of energy in their total power generation, thereby providing ample of opportunities for the adoption of the waste-to-energy technology.

The goals of the European climate and energy policy of creating an energy system are characterized by less dependence on fossil fuels. This creates a stronger market pull for waste-to-energy technologies, especially to produce biogas and biofuels.

Global Waste-to-Energy (WtE) Market: Competitive Landscape

Key players involved in waste-to-energy (WtE) market includes:Covanta Energy Corporation, Veolia, Seuz Environment, China Everbright International Limited, EDF, AVR, EQT AB, Wheelabrator, Hitachi Zosen Inova AG, Babcock & Wilcox Vφlund A/S, Viridor, Ramboll Group and GCL Poly. In December 2019, Covanta Holding Corporation signs concession agreement to build new energy-from-waste facility in Zhao county, China.

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