http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4621710.stm I was discussing this at work with the head of generation for one of the big six energy providers yesterday. It seems that the Government in its latest Energy White Paper (how many in how many years?) is intending to burn more waste as fuel in general power stations and purpose built waste to electricity plants to reduce the burden on land fill. Now as someone that works in the industry this just highlights the lack of joined up thinking on environmental and energy issues. Most plants in the UK have triialled burning tallow and re-firing ash (because a proportion still has high carbon content that can be burnt) the EA (in all its regional forms) however has at various times decided that tallow is a fuel and then that it is a waste. Now tallow is a good replacement for heavy fuel oil (a petro-chem product) with a high specific heat. When it is classified as fuel we can burn it and extract valuable MWh from it but when it is classified as waste it has to be sent for incineration with no energy recovery. Longannet power station in Scotland built a sewage treatment plant that turned 40% of southern Scotland’s (Glasgow – Edinburgh area) into pellets that could be fired in the boiler to create electricity. The Scottish EA decided waste must be incinerated and the plant has stood dormant after an expensive investment. The irony is that previously most of this waste was simply dumped in the sea which was acceptable, but if you build a plant to get energy from it you can’t use for that purpose and you must now incinerate the pellets at your own cost. So genuine fuel opportunities have regularly been turned down by the EA but now we are going to burn genuine waste in power stations and that is ok so why were these other valuable projects rejected? Part of the reason for the new loveof incineration is that we have reduced massively the number of special waste land fill sites so their volume is at a premium and cannot be spared for regular waste and regular land fill sites are being closed over water concerns. Basically all those ni-cad batteries we chuck in the bin are rotting and the tiny amounts of cadmium are getting into the drinking water breaking some EU legislation and requiring their closure. Now I agree with the Friends of the Earth that the aim should be to recycle and cut down waste but whatever happens there will always be some waste and some of it will be suitable for waste to energy. The furore that will no doubt break out will completely overlook the fact that uber-green countries like Germany already burn most of their waste in regular power plants that have been designed and built with ability to do so. To them the anathema is to bury waste, the solution of which we approve. So when you hear about this don’t be alarmed this is the norm in many countries it’s only places like Britain where the jobsworths and nimby’s rule that the sensible option can’t be followed. When someone mentions dioxins point out that at 1160 degC the typical boiler temperature for a coal station they don’t form.