The role of advanced conversion technologies in energy from waste

Written by: RWW | Published:

Advanced conversion technologies are moving towards commercialisation and attracting support for the role they play in addressing the challenges of waste management and power generation. Rolf Stein reports.

With the UK’s 2020 targets for renewable energy and recycling, the contribution of advanced conversion technologies will grow in importance. 

Indeed, the UK is on the brink of a step change in the provision of waste to energy and fuel facilities and, with wider adoption, these technologies could deliver a significant amount of the UK’s power needs and beyond, for example, bio substitute natural gas for injection into the national grid. 

However, there are still substantial challenges in making the leap to mass commercialisation. Overcoming these challenges will be contingent on commercially viable projects, a supportive policy framework and the securing of investment. 

The UK government has a vital role in supporting the development of science, innovation and advanced engineering, all of which are key drivers for economic growth. It is pivotal to bring pioneering technologies to market by providing funding for projects to escalate development to commercial scale.  

Significant support is typically required at the point where technologies evolve from demonstration to commercialisation, which is the principal area where technological progression can stall. 

Stable policy framework

Government can also support development by providing a consistent and stable policy framework that will in turn enable projects to attract private investment. The government has provided early stage funding via third party organisations, such as the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and the Green Investment Bank (GIB), designed to unlock and encourage private investment. The ETI, a public private partnership, is designed to accelerate the development of clean, affordable energy projects by targeting investment at the pre-commercial deployment stage, where typically there is a funding gap.  

The GIB, launched at the end of 2012, has a critical role to play in injecting confidence and, therefore, unlocking additional private funding to help the market secure investment. Waste to energy is one area on which the GIB is focusing. 

Moves such as these help provide a backdrop of support to the sector, but ultimately investors want to see a strong investment rationale and projects that deliver attractive returns with minimal risk. 

Many waste to energy technology companies, like Advanced Plasma Power (APP), have a compelling business proposition for their technologies, which makes them viable at the project level. APP’s technology creates a synthesis gas that also has multiple applications beyond power generation. For example, APP is working on a project with National Grid to demonstrate the potential of its synthesis gas and convert it to meet the specification for injection into the gas network. 

The multiple downstream applications of the very clean, hydrogen-rich syngas created by Gasplasma, makes the technology an attractive investment proposition. 

APP has recently secured planning for its 6MW commercial Gasplasma waste to energy plant in Tyseley, Birmingham. The plant will provide residents in the Birmingham area with a sustainable means of waste disposal in return for renewable heat and power. 

This development builds on APP’s plant at Swindon (pictured above), which has achieved consistently high levels of efficiency with all types of feedstock. 

It is a key project that fits into the vision for the city’s Environmental Enterprise District, responding to the need for sustainable waste management while also creating jobs.

There is enormous potential for waste to energy plants to solve waste management and renewable energy challenges, provided that the relevant structures are in place to support commercialisation. 

- Rolf Stein will be speaking at the 10th International Energy from Waste Conference which takes place in London on February 26-27. For more information on the conference, visit or phone 01722 717024

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