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India lagging behind in waste-to-energy projects

DEBDEEP CHAKRABORTY, Wednesday, May 05, 2010, 15:04 Hrs [IST]

India has potential to generate as much as 2,500 mw of power from urban, municipal
and industrial wastes in the next two to three years.

According to a study released by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and

Industry of India, urban areas of the country generate about 40,000 million tonnes of
solid waste and 5,000 million cubic metre of liquid waste every year.

Titled 'Mitigating Climate Change: The Indian Perspective', the study suggests
recycling of waste for power generation. It estimates that about 1,500 mw of power
can be generated from urban and municipal wastes by setting up wasteto- energy
projects. There is possibility of generating an additional 1,000 mw from industrial

Funds for setting up the waste-to-energy projects may be raised through

municipalities and local governments with subsidy element coming from the
concerned states, the study says.

The cost of setting up a waste-to-energy plant is significantly more when compared to a thermal or hydel power

"Waste-to-energy projects have been working very successfully abroad for the last several years," Dr. G.V.
Rama Krishna, Chairman & Managing Director, Selco International Ltd, told Projectmonitor. Selco International
is a company that is focused on energy recovery from municipal solid waste.

"In China, there are as many as 50 waste-to-energy plants. Their capacities range from 5 mw to 15 mw. There
is potential in India too but for projects to become successful there has to be incentives. Plant operators should
be provided support in the form of tipping fees, clean development mechanism benefits and subsidies," he
said, adding that the wasteto- energy projects served the dual purpose of waste disposal and supply of
electricity in sufficient quantity.

India has so far realised only 2 per cent of its waste-to-energy potential, according to the Indian Renewable
Energy Development Agency. The primary reason for low realisation is the prohibitive cost involved in setting
up of wasteto- energy plants. Also, many experts consider the solid waste that is generated in the country
unsuitable for power generation.

"Waste-to-energy plants cost not less than Rs 12 crore to Rs 15 crore per mw," said Almitra H. Patel, Member,
Supreme Court Committee for Solid Waste Management in Class I Cities, that was constituted in 1998.

"On the other hand, capital investment required in a thermal power plant is far less at Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore
per mw. Hydel power plants cost slightly more at Rs 6 crore per mw. Besides, MSW in India is low in calorific
value and high in inert and moisture content and therefore unsuitable for incineration or pelletisation," she