Global EfW boom could see market value rise to $80bn

The value of the international waste-to-energy market could top $80bn by 2022 as analysts forecast accelerated growth for the sector over the next decade.

According to a new report from Pike Research, demand for thermal and biological waste-to-energy (WTE) technologies will reach at least $6.2bn in 2012 and grow to $29.2bn by 2022.

Population growth, rapid urbanisation, rising levels of affluence and resource scarcity will help fuel this demand, according to researchers. With China already scaling up capacity, growth for WTE is expected to shift away from Europe to Asia Pacific in the coming years.

“With many countries facing dramatic population growth, waste-to-energy is re-establishing itself as an attractive technology option to promote low carbon growth in the crowded renewable energy landscape,” said senior analyst Mackinnon Lawrence.

More than 800 thermal WTE plants currently operate in nearly 40 countries worldwide, but these facilities treated just 11% of municipal solid waste (MSW) generated worldwide in 2011 compared to the 70% that was landfilled.

In 2011, the world generated an estimated 2bn tonnes of MSW and these arisings are predicted to grow much higher.

By 2020, the report forecasts that WTE facilities will treat at least 261m tonnes of waste annually with a total estimated output of 283 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity and heat generation – compared to 221TWh in 2010.

Under a more optimistic scenario, WTE could potentially treat 396m tonnes of MSW a year, producing 429TWh of power. High upfront capital costs and attractive economics for landfilling, however, represent persistent barriers to more widespread adoption of WTE.

While combustion technologies continue to lead the market, advanced thermal treatment technology deployments such as pyrolysis are expected to pick up as diminishing landfill capacity improves WTE economics.

Maxine Perella

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