Why is waste incineration climate-neutral?
Waste incineration makes a significant contribution to climate protection compared to energy generation from fossil primary energy sources such as coal or gas. This is due in particular to the fact that waste contains a significant proportion of regenerative carbon – specifically almost 15 percent per kilogram of waste. This results in relative CO2 savings of 36 percent on average compared to the generation of electricity and heat from fossil fuels. In addition, reusable materials from the combustion residues are returned to the production cycle and harmful or hazardous waste ingredients are destroyed, converted, separated and safely retained.
On average, every German generates 626 kilograms of waste per year. In this way, 350 million metric tons of household waste, other municipal waste, demolition material from mining, waste from industrial production, commerce, construction and demolition come together every year throughout Germany. Despite the growing efforts to produce less waste, a considerable amount remains, and most or all of it cannot be sent to landfill – this is the raw material basis for a company like STEAG Waste to Energy GmbH.
The industrial power plant IKW Rüdersdorf near Berlin recycles 250,000 metric tons of domestic, industrial and commercial waste per year. From that, the power plant achieves a thermal output of 110 MW and an average net electrical output of 35 MW. The neighboring cement manufacturer CEMEX, to which the IKW Rüdersdorf supplies electricity, also benefits from this.
Just as impressive are the figures for the Lauta thermal waste treatment plant based in Saxony. There, 225,000 metric tons of domestic and commercial waste and similar commercial and industrial waste are recycled annually and a thermal output of 87 MW and an average of 20 MW of electrical energy is generated, the majority of which is fed into the public grid. In addition, around 12,000 megawatt hours of process steam is supplied to the neighboring insulation manufacturer Rygol.
A year ago, the energy company acquired both waste to energy plants from the Vattenfall Group. STEAG had held 25.1 percent of T. A. Lauta since 2004 and increased its stake to 100 percent through the transaction. Both companies are held by the newly founded subsidiary STEAG Waste to Energy GmbH. Since both plants are highly functional and also have well-coordinated operating teams, the initial focus was on adapting the administrative areas such as human resources and accounting to the processes within STEAG.
The new subsidiary also benefited from STEAG’s experience in the thermal recycling of waste and special fuels, gained among others from many years of operation of a refinery power plant at the Leuna site, where residues from the oil refining process are used to generate heat and electricity.
Meanwhile, the integration process of T. A. Lauta and IKW Rüdersdorf has been completed and the advantages of the two waste to energy plants have had a positive impact in several respects: Every metric ton of waste incinerated in the two plants pays into STEAG Waste to Energy GmbH. In addition, T. A. Lauta and IKW Rüdersdorf generate electricity and heat, for which regular customers are also available, for example in the form of the partner Cemex. And since the plants are also treated by the legislator as CO2-free, unlike conventional power plants, no CO2 allowances have to be purchased. This in turn keeps variable costs low. And finally, T. A. Lauta and IKW Rüdersdorf are continuously in operation to fulfil their disposal mandate. In this way, they contribute to securing the base load in German grid operation and will therefore also be an important factor for security of supply in the future.