Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 29

Submission from the Environmental Services Association

  The Environmental Services Association ("ESA") is the sectoral trade association representing the UK's managers of waste and secondary resources, a sector with an annual turnover of around £9 billion. ESA's Members seek to align economic and environmental sustainability by delivering compliance with relevant EU waste and environmental law.

  The waste management sector has to date made the greatest contribution towards meeting the UK's renewable energy targets, through proven technologies such as landfill gas and extracting energy from waste. The potential for waste biomass to contribute further towards the UK's twin energy goals of security of fuel supply and greenhouse gas emission reductions has been recognised by the Government's Biomass Task Force.

  ESA notes that:

    —    waste biomass has been recognised by the Government and other bodies as a significant potential renewable resource;

    —    the Government has failed to provide the necessary incentives or remove the significant barriers to enable the sector to realise its potential;

    —    incentives would come through a stable long term framework; and

    —    the Government should rely on the market to deliver the appropriate renewable generation technologies of the future, rather than attempting to "pick winners".


  1.  A large proportion of the UK's renewable electricity has to date been generated from waste biomass, which in 2005 contributed over 30% of renewable electricity generation. This has been achieved at relatively low cost.

  2.  The majority of the contribution from waste to date has been provided by landfill gas and delivered through the Government's Non Fossil Fuel Obligation policy. Policy drivers such as the Landfill Directive, which limits the volume of biodegradable waste which can be landfilled, will lead to a significant decline in landfill gas production in the future. If the UK is to continue to harness the energy contained in waste, new infrastructure will be required.


  3.  The Government's Biomass Task Force has recognised the potential of waste biomass as a renewable resource, describing it as a "secure and sustainable source of biomass energy". Waste biomass has potential to contribute to the UK's twin energy goals of security of fuel supply and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

  4.  The Institution of Civil Engineers has suggested that as much as 17% of the UK's electricity requirements could be met by energy recovered from residual waste by 2020.[40]

  5.  It is also recognised that energy recovery from waste offers significant environmental benefits over energy recovery from other forms of biomass. DTI-commissioned research has estimated that the largest net greenhouse gas savings from different sources of biomass came from waste.[41]


  6.  To realise the full energy potential of waste biomass, national policy must create incentives whilst at the same time removing the non-market barriers which currently constrain the development of new energy recovery facilities.

  7.  The Renewables Obligation has successfully brought forward the uptake of more efficient renewable technologies. However, the Government's intention to introduce differentiated levels of support could-in the long term-undermine UK renewable generation by introducing uncertainty among operators as to what the Government might perceive to be future winners.

  8.  The Government's latest biomass action plan continues the tradition of recognising the substantial potential carbon and energy benefits of exploiting waste biomass resources, but failing to introduce concrete policy proposals which might facilitate its development.

  9.  In particular, planning has proven to be a significant barrier to the uptake of new energy from waste facilities. Easing this constraint would provide a strong boost for renewable generation. The Government's recently published planning white paper has proposed that the largest energy from waste facilities should be determined by an independent infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). However more can be done to reinforce the national role that smaller waste management facilities will play in meeting domestic and international energy renewable energy production and waste management targets.

July 2007

40   Quantification of the potential energy from residuals (EfR) in the UK, Oakdene Hollins, March 2005. Back

41   Evaluating the sustainability of co-firing in the UK, Themba Technology, September 2006. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2008
Prepared 19 June 2008