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Mind the gap

7th July 2011 Posted by

I have been consistent with my messages over the past two years related to the inertia of waste planning decisions, the desperate need to find new sources of energy and the role that energy-from-waste could play in bridging the energy gap.

It is therefore interesting to read the findings of recent research that suggest that the UK’s precarious energy position could in fact be much worse than originally estimated. The study shows that several of the power plants destined to close from 2015 onwards may have to close earlier, owing to their allotted allowances of 20,000 hours usage being utilised more rapidly than first thought.

The reason for this changing position? The price of natural gas has surged lately, making the old coal fired plants – the mainstay of UK generation – temporarily more economically viable. As a result, their owners have seized the opportunity to use them to full effect, eaten into their allowances and will now close them much sooner than anticipated.

If we add this to the difficulty facing the power companies who have to make massive investments in new power plants, the prospect of carbon taxation and low electricity prices, then we have a potent mix of challenges that may restrict the development of new infrastructure. Further add to this the shattered confidence in nuclear power generation created by the disaster in Japan and the future looks even bleaker.

The waste industry has been consistently shouting from the sidelines of the potential benefits of energy-from-waste. Now, with this sobering new information in mind, it should be a question of ‘how soon’ rather than ‘if’ we extract the final value from waste once recyclables have been removed.

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