Energy-from-waste explosion sparks jobs boom

The rise in energy recovery facilities across the UK and the rest of the work is creating huge demand for jobs and skilled workers, as Victoria Kenrick finds out

The value of the international energy-from-waste (EfW) market could reach $80bn by 2022 as analysts forecast accelerated growth for the waste sector over the next decade. According to a new report from Pike Research, the demand for thermal and biological waste-to-energy technologies will reach at least $6.2bn in 2012 and grow to $29.2bn by 2022.

Key drivers underpinning this growth are population increase, rapid urbanisation, rising levels of affluence and resource scarcity. Although the UK is expected to see growth within the EfW market, is it worth noting that in particular it is China which is already scaling up capacity, so expected growth will also occur in Asia Pacific in the coming years.

EfW could potentially treat 396m tonnes of municipal solid waste a year, producing 429 terrawatt of power. However, high upfront capital costs and attractive economics for landfilling represent persistent barriers to more widespread adoption. Nevertheless, recent project development, construction work and career opportunities within the EfW industry are expected to soar.

According to a Driving Green Growth report from SITA which came out last April, up to 84,000 jobs within the waste industry will be created over the next decade. At our company we’re already seeing evidence of this with demands for project managers within anaerobic digestion, business developers and sales professionals at waste management companies and EfW engineers.

Given such opportunity, with the right injection of skilled waste professionals, the waste management sector could be a real driving force for the generation of renewable energy. SITA’s report proposes that EfW could feasibly meet 15% of the UK’s electricity from renewable sources commitment and a third of the country’s residential gas demand (up to 12% of total UK demand).

This would effectively triple waste-derived renewable electricity from thermal combustion alone to 3.6 terawatt hours, powering one million homes. The research also claimed that the £25bn of investment which is needed to secure the new infrastructure will in turn enable the potential 84,000 new jobs being created in the waste sector over the next decade.

EfW has the potential to meet a third of Britain’s domestic gas demand – in order to exploit this opportunity, a further 80 EfW facilities need to be built by 2020, on top of the 30 already operating in the UK.

Construction work has begun on a £45m incinerator in Devon. The plant is being built in Exeter and will process waste from across east Devon, about 60,000 tonnes of waste a year, and should be operational by summer 2014.

Meanwhile, in the north of the UK, construction of Lincolnshire’s first EfW facility to treat household waste is now underway. The facility will produce enough electricity to power over 10,000 homes and businesses and a significant number of jobs will be created.

Construction work at Viridor’s EfW plant at Ardley in Oxfordshire is also in full swing following the completion of initial excavation works. It has been suggested that up to 200 new jobs will be available within the construction of this facility. Once the facility is operational, the bunker will provide storage for up to 5,000 tonnes of residual waste awaiting conversion into energy.

Over in Wales, a new Welsh scheme has been established to aid civil engineering recruitment. In addition, a £185m incinerator at Trident Park in Cardiff Bay is expected to create up to 300 jobs during its construction.

Victoria Kenrick is marketing assistant at Allen & York

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie