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Challenges Faced by Waste-to-energy Plants in India

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I receive a lot of queries around waste-to-energy plants. It is encouraging to see that so many youngsters seem to be excited about the prospects of generating power from waste. Waste-to-energy plants convert non-biodegradable waste into useful energy. It is estimated that energy generation from waste in India could reach 5600 MW sufficient enough to power its capital city of Delhi if all of its industrial and urban organic waste is put to use.

The waste to energy industry in India is expected to grow to about $11.7 billion by 2052. India has more than 90 WTE plants with an aggregate capacity of around 250 MW that use urban, agricultural and industrial waste to generate energy. However, WTE plants are in India are continuously facing criticism and are being slammed for polluting the environment. Even though the prospects look positive, the waste-to-energy industry in India has failed to garner the necessary momentum. Here are the various reasons why they have been unsuccessful so far.


Issues faced by WTE plants:

i) Inefficient Disposal of waste – Poor means of disposal in developing countries leads to many air-borne diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. It has been seen that most of the waste is carelessly being burned in the outdoors.

ii) Polluting Nature of WTE plants – It is a common belief that the WTE plants are highly polluting in nature. These plants generate a huge amount of bottom ash, air emissions associated with incineration facilities such as metals (mercury, lead and cadmium), organics, acid gases (sulphur dioxide and hydrogen chloride), particulates (dust and grit), nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.

iii) Inefficient plants – There is a lack of efficient waste-to-energy plants as these plants are very expensive. It is estimated that an efficient waste management plant could account for 20%-50% of total municipal budgets.

iv) No Proper segregation of waste – Waste plants lack proper waste segregation which when burnt together results in an increased amount of waste. The mixed waste also has high inert content. This waste requires additional fuel to burn, which further makes running the plant very expensive. About 30%-40% of waste into landfills because they are either inert or too poor in quality to be combustible.

v) Feasibility – These plants do not get many buyers for the generated power given the availability of cheaper alternatives. The tariff for these projects is high around Rs. 6-7 per unit, compared to Rs 3-4 per kWh from coal and solar plants.

vi) High Cost – Waste to energy plants sport high capital cost, high O&M expenses, low calorific value of the fuel used and the additional fuel used to burn the waste, even with various government subsidies.

“The compositional characteristics of waste in India are very distinct compared to those in developed countries. Waste generated in the country has more organic components, more moisture content and low calorific value compared to waste generated in developed countries, which has direct influence on efficiency of electricity generation,” said Power and renewable energy minister R K Singh.

Source: India Times


Sneha Shah

I am Sneha, the Editor-in-chief for the Blog. We would be glad to receive suggestions, inputs & comments on GWI from you guys to keep it going! You can contact me for consultancy/trade inquires by writing an email to

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