Invited Session: Energy Recovery
Biowaste Recovery is the Essential Ingredient of a Low Carbon Waste Policy (1 CEU)
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
16:30 – 17:30
Moderator: John Skinner Environmental Consulting, LLC (former ISWA President and former executive director of SWANA), Washington, D.C.
The take-up of biogas technologies has developed rapidly over the last twenty years, mainly driven by concerns in Europe around climate change and the need to provide sources of reliable, renewable energy. Indeed, technologies developed using food crops grown specifically for biogas generation through anaerobic digestion. In the USA, farm based biogas is still predominant. Biogas extraction from landfills, driven by the instruments like the Global Methane Initiative, recognized the opportunity of capturing methane from landfills for energy production, and are widely implemented globally. Finally, biogas extraction from sewage sludge has developed where facilities providers have understood the opportunity in creating an energy source from zero-value waste.
Only in the last decade has biogas really developed the scale and technologies to capture methane from domestic and retail food waste. Growth in this sector has been rapid in Europe where plants have been established especially where food waste collection systems have focused on bringing high quality and continuous feed stocks to the plants.
Nutrient outputs from biogas plants play a significant role in providing agriculture with quality and low-cost supplies of phosphorous, nitrogen and carbon. In more arid areas, the nutrients are highly valued and contribute important financial resources to biogas operations.
But in the less developed countries biogas uptake has been sporadic; in southern Asia we have seen uptake on a village scale—countries like Bangladesh and India have thousands of small scale village digesters fed by animal and human feces providing gas for heating, cooking and lighting. Yet the large-scale technologies seen in Europe are yet to materialize in less developed nations.
The presentation explores the reasons for this failing and the policies governments can enact to enhance biogas uptake in less developed regions. They include technical issues, such as access to grids, quality criteria, and fiscal policies- the world is still subsidizing fossil fuel energy at five times the rate of renewables, an absurd paradox given the Paris agreements that have now entered into force and contrary to the Sustainable Development Goals unanimously approved by the United Nations in 2015.