Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Environmental Services Association (U24)

  The Environmental Services Association (ESA) is the sectoral trade association for the United Kingdom's waste and secondary resource management industry, a sector contributing more than £5 billion per annum to GDP.


  Indigenous carbon-based energy reserves are predicted to decline sharply in the future. The Institute of Civil Engineers[53] has suggested that the UK could be importing more than 80% of its energy by 2020 raising serious concerns about cost and national security.

  In addition to using energy more efficiently, the UK will need to generate much more renewable energy if the UK is to meet its targets on greenhouse gas emissions. The Energy White Paper recognises that against a current total installed capacity of 1,200 MW, an additional 1,250 MW of renewable energy capacity will need to be installed in the United Kingdom each year until 2010 to deliver the 10% renewable energy target.

  ESA's Members already make a significant contribution: of the 3% of electricity generated from renewable sources in the UK in 2003, 43% was derived from waste:[54]

    —  30.8% was generated from landfill gas

    —  9.1% was generated from municipal solid waste incineration

    —  3.2% from sewage sludge digestion.

  A further proportion was derived from the incineration of wood wastes, farm waste digestion, poultry litter combustion and meat and bone combustion.

  According to the Digest of United Kingdom's Energy Statistics, the renewable energy produced from landfill gas in 2003-04 was equivalent to over 1 million tonnes of oil.

  Nevertheless there is much greater potential to use waste to generate renewable energy. Defra has estimated that meeting the biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) targets of the Landfill Directive will require 13 million tonnes of BMW to be diverted from landfill by 2020. The European Environment Agency has suggested that this figure could be as high as 26 million tonnes. Extracting energy from this waste is part of a balanced waste management strategy: European countries like the Netherlands and Denmark have demonstrated that the extraction of high levels of energy from waste can coexist with high rates of recycling.


(a)  Financial

  The Government has weakened rather than strengthened the financial incentives to generate energy from waste, even when recyclable material has been removed. For example, despite reporting energy from waste as renewable energy to the EU, the Government does not include energy generated from the biogenic fraction of mixed waste for support under the Renewables Obligation. This makes it difficult for companies to satisfy the requirements of financial institutions for project finance and few companies, other than large utilities, have the ability to finance new infrastructure on their balance sheets.

(b)  Planning

  The planning process is a major barrier to increasing the UK's renewable energy output and we welcome the publication of new national planning policy on renewable energy developments. Renewable energy projects need to be supported at national, regional and local levels.

(c)  Institutional

  The PIU's report "Making More with Less" identified climate change and waste generation as the first and second environmental priorities for Government. Unlike other EU Members States, the UK's waste management and energy policies often appear to be developed in isolation of one another. For example, whilst there are references to waste in the Energy White Paper, there is no specific recommendation on how waste and energy policy can be better integrated.

1 October 2004

53   The State of the Nation 2003, Institute of Civil Engineers. Back

54   Calculated from Table, 7.4 Digest of UK Energy Statistics Dukes 2004. Back

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