Energy recovery from municipal solid waste (MSW) is still at a nascent stage. While the uptake of waste-to-energy (WtE) projects in the country has increased in the recent past, the level of capacity addition in the WtE segment has not picked up pace. At present, only 88.5 MW of power is generated from waste.
The government, over the past few years, has provided a stimulus through favourable policy and regulatory measures as well as programmes such as the Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) and the Smart Cities Mission. In 2018, the Ministry of Power revised the Tariff Policy, 2006, under the Indian Electricity Act, 2003, making it mandatory for distribution companies to purchase power from WtE plants. Moreover, the remunerative tariffs set by the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission have also helped increase investor interest in this segment.
Experience so far
While the first WtE project was conceptualised for New Delhi in 1985, it failed to take off. The facility was set up at Timarpur in 1987 based on the incineration technology to produce 3.5 MW of power. It soon became inoperative due to the differences in quality of waste received and the requirement as per plant design.
Next, attempts were made in 2003. The experience with these projects was also not very encouraging. Two of the main reasons for the failure of these projects were non-availability of segregated waste and lack of clarity in assignment of roles among the stakeholders involved in the project. In 2007, new initiatives were taken by the government to subsidise WtE plants and develop a long-term solution and framework for WtE in the country, following which a number of new WtE plants were set up. These include those at Kanpur (15 MW), Timarpur-Okhla (16 MW), Solapur (4 MW), and Pune (10 MW). These projects were developed through special purpose vehicles (SPVs) and the revenue was largely through sale of power to discoms at a specified rate.
Of late, the pace of technology adoption in the WtE segment has improved. Urban local bodies (ULBs) are deploying advanced control and automation solutions for WtE facilities. Private sector funding has also been a driving force for financing of WtE projects. Companies such as the V-Guard Group have already invested in the segment whereas others such as GJ Nature Care and Energy have a few projects in the pipeline. Meanwhile, ULBs are testing new business models to ensure the profitability and viability of WtE projects. Utilisation of waste in a more productive manner such as conversion to green fuels is also being explored.
Projects in the pipeline
In the past two-three years, state governments and ULBs have announced plans to undertake a number of WtE projects. The Chennai Corporation has recently proposed the development of two WtE plants at Perungudi and Kodungaiyur. Together, these plants will have the capacity to generate 32 MW of electricity using incineration technology. Detailed feasibility reports for the two plants have already been prepared.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation and the North Delhi Municipal Corporation too have stated plans to develop two WtE plants at Tehkhand (2,500 tonnes per day [tpd]; 25 MW) and Bhalswa (1,500 tpd; 15 MW). The plant at Tehkhand is expected to be completed by December 2019 while the one at Bhalswa will be completed by August 2020. Further, the East Delhi Municipal Corporation plans to expand the waste processing capacity of its existing Okhla WtE plant from 1,200 tpd to 2,000 tpd by November 2019. In addition, the civic agency is setting up an integrated waste processing facility in association with NTPC Limited, the location for which is yet to be decided. The facility will have a WtE plant, a biomethanation plant, an aerobic composter, and a small construction and demolition waste plant. The entire facility will process 2,000 tpd of waste to produce 12 MW of power. Another unique initiative, a cluster-based integrated solid waste management (SWM) project has been proposed by the Kerala government. As part of the project, seven WtE plants of 5 MW capacity each will be developed at identified locations across the state on a public-private partnership basis. At present, bids for WtE plants at Kozhikode, Kollam, Palakkad and Kannur have been invited but are yet to be awarded. Meanwhile, bids for the other plants at Thiruvananthapuram, Thrissur, Malappuram and Kollam are yet to be invited.
A similar initiative has been taken by Haryana. As part of the Integrated SWM Scheme, WtE plants will be developed in 15 clusters. Currently, a 25 MW capacity WtE plant at Bandhwari village in Gurugram is under construction. Being developed at a cost of Rs 5.2 billion, it is expected to be completed by August 2019.
India’s WtE segment has been slow to mature. A number of new developments are on the anvil that will make the WtE segment more promising for stakeholders. Key among these is NITI Aayog’s plan to set up a WtE authority, which could ease problems pertaining to clearances, departmental coordination, etc. Nonetheless, for a major shift to occur, there is a need to address issues such as absence of segregation of waste at source, financial constraints, shortage of skilled manpower, and lack of technical and professional capability of municipal agencies.