Europe’s waste-to-energy sector has underlined the technology’s importance in advance of a review of the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive, currently under consultation.

In a position paper, trade body European Suppliers of Waste-to-Energy Technology (ESWET) said it is ‘confident’ that EU decision-makers will maintain the current level of recognition and support for WtE.

The group said WtE ‘gives a double contribution’ for both power production and heat supply.

It said around 50% of waste energy comes from biomass, and thus qualifies as renewable. Thus, WtE plants ‘can supply more renewable electricity into the grid while helping to stabilize it (since they are technically capable of modulating their electricity output). Both such services deserve to be rewarded in the new market design,’ the group argued.

In addition, ESWET said WtE is ‘one of the few sources of renewable heat that can supply the high temperatures required in specific industries’ and that, ‘in many cases, WtE plants have played a role in the launching of heating networks’. As with power, the group said around 50% of this heat qualifies as renewable.

It pointed to new WtE plants in Lithuania and Estonia which have been connected to existing district heating networks, replacing imported gas-fired sources of heat.

‘If we want to reindustrialize Europe, a forward-looking source of energy such as residual waste is a great way to provide heat and electricity to sustainable industrial clusters,’ the group added.

However, it noted that negative public perception of WtE ‘often overshadows all the advantages and contributions to various EU targets’ it can offer, and that ‘in many cases, projects with concrete renewable energy production and saving substantial greenhouse gas emissions were delayed by opposition based on mistaken perceptions’.

In conclusion, in addition to maintaining current support levels, ESWET called on the EU to enhance its support for the technology through awareness campaigns or official statements.

‘As long as biomass for energy is subsidized, all biomass sources and all bioenergy producers should be supported equally,’ the group said.