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1. Wasted effort: half of India’s waste-to-energy plants defunct

Nearly half of India’s waste-to-energy (WTE) plants, meant to convert non-biodegradable waste, are defunct. Further, the country’s inability to segregate waste has resulted in even the existing plants working below capacity.

Since 1987, 15 WTE plants have been set up across the country. However, seven of these plants have shut down.

Key reasons

The key reasons for closure are the plants’ inability to handle mixed solid waste and the high cost of electricity generated by them that renders it unattractive to power companies.

However, this track record has not stopped the government from betting big on WTE.

The NITI Aayog, as part of the Swachh Bharat Mission, envisages 800 megawatt from WTE plants by 2018-19, which is 10 times the capacity of all the existing WTE plants put together.

Waste – to – Energy:

  • Waste-to-Energy (WTE) technology utilizes Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to create electric and heat energy through various complex conversion methods.
  • WTE technology provides an alternative source of renewable energy in a world with limited or challenged fossil reserves.
  • MSW is considered a source of renewable energy because it contains a large amount of biological and renewable materials,
  • There is a significant excess supply of MSW (primarily in landfills) around the globe.
  • The demand for MSW as a fuel source has increased.
  • The most common conversion method of MSW to energy is combustion and although it is currently entrenched in the market, there are three emerging technologies moving toward the forefront:
  • Biological treatment method via anaerobic digestion: Anaerobic digestion is a waste-to-fuel application; waste can be converted into purified biogas which can then be used to power gas engines or turbines to create heat or electricity. The biogas can also be purified and compressed to be used as vehicle fuel.
  • Thermal treatment methods that yield energy in the form of heat and electricity include combustion, gasification, and pyrolysis.
  • Pyrolysis used in the production of cellulosic ethanol – there are multiple facilities in the pilot and commercialization stages.

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