EFW Heat Networks

At the ESA, we’re turning up the heat on EfW decarbonisation

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Recovering energy from waste that would otherwise be destined for landfill is an essential part of the United Kingdom’s waste management system. This is primarily achieved through thermal treatment where residual waste – the material left over after recycling – is combusted in specialist Energy-from-Waste (EfW) plants to generate heat, which in turn raises steam in a boiler that drives a turbine to produce electrical energy.

As of early 2021, there were 55 operational energy-from-waste plants in the UK and, between them, these facilities have the capacity to process 14 million tonnes of residual waste each year, while contributing nearly three per cent of the UK’s total net electricity generation in 2020, or 7,762 GWh.

However, there is significant unrealised potential to extract not just electrical energy, but also heat energy from the majority of these facilities. Making the most of this heat could be critical to delivering cost-effective heat decarbonisation in the UK’s urban areas.

Although the UK currently has a fleet of more than 55 EfW plants, less than a quarter of them export the heat they generate, which is in stark contrast to plants in continental Europe where the vast majority export heat and electricity.

From a heat network perspective, EfW plants can provide large volumes of heat on a consistent basis relatively nearby to significant heating demand. Heat from EfW operations is likely to be one of the most cost-effective sources of low carbon heat for UK towns and cities and, given the high temperature of the Energy from Waste process, these plants are particularly well suited to meet the needs of all building types, even those that have not yet been subject to a full energy-efficiency retrofit.

Delivering greater heat network offtake from these facilities will require collaboration between many different parties. To facilitate this collaboration the ESA has published a directory of individual EfW plants and their heat offtake potential, which we hope will form a useful platform to start discussions between parties.

Each plant is pin-pointed on the interactive map below and detailed information about each facility, including up-to-date contact details, can be found and downloaded by clicking on the plant of interest.

Alternatively, you can download the full directory as a single PDF here

Interactive map