Waste-to-Energy: a reality for affordable heating in local districts


A journey through the most innovative European Waste-to-Energy plants, which contributes not only to district heating but also in some cities to fun and art.

Modern-day Waste-to-Energy plants are well integrated with their surroundings and involved in the life of community. Not only do they treat the non-recyclable waste produced by households and industries, but by processing this waste they also generate electricity and heating for residential buildings, businesses and nearby industries.

Waste-to-Energy plants treat municipal and similar waste that could not be recycled and generate energy in the form of electricity, steam or hot water. The hot water, depending on local infrastructure can be sent to nearby district heating or cooling networks, providing an affordable, reliable and fossil-free source of heating to local communities and thus allowing people all over Europe to enjoy cozy, comfortable and warm houses.

Today, around 10% of the energy provided to European district heating networks comes from Waste-to-Energy plants. [1]

Keep reading to discover how all-over Europe, communities in the surroundings of WtE plants benefit from the heat generated from their waste.

The Swedish Example

(Construction of the Sysav plant in Malmö, Sweden)

Sweden has a state-of-the-art waste management system. In the Scandinavian country residual waste is used as a fuel in the district heating system, instead of being sent to landfills. Waste-to-Energy meets the heating needs of 1,250,000 apartments, as Swedish WtE plants have high recovery rates thanks to the district heating networks built to use the heat produced from them.

One of the largest of these power plants in the country is Sysav, located in Malmö, Skåne County. It is among the most efficient plants in the country, and in Europe, processing around 600,000 tons of waste annually, enough to cover 60% of the heat requirements of Malmö, a city of 300,000 inhabitants. [2] [3]

The Rea Dalmine Plant in Bergamo

(The Rea Dalmine Plant in the city of Bergamo, Italy)

With its numerous strengths, Rea Dalmine is considered a real point of reference for Italian and European Waste-to-Energy conversion. Thanks to its integration with the regional waste management strategy, the data published daily on the website, and its aesthetically pleasing architecture the plant is one of the most efficient ones in Europe. In 2020, thanks to an agreement between A2A Calore & Servizi and the existing plant of REA DALMINE, a 50% increase in the heat available in the district heating network of the City of Bergamo was achieved, which translates into 14,500 tons of CO2 less per year released into the air.[3][4]

Giubiasco Plant in Switzerland

(The plant of Giubiasco Plant in Switzerland)

In the ancient town of Giubiasco, at the foot of the Swiss alps, lies an innovative Waste-to-Energy plant which helped the city solve its waste disposal issues and provide heating to the surrounding area. Built in 2009 to put an end to the costly practice of exporting the waste generated in the town to other Swiss cantons, the plant also helped the surrounding communities by providing a source of partly renewable heating and electricity.

The Giubiasco plant converts around 160,000 tons of waste per year into energy. The plant feeds the national power grid and covers the needs of around 23,000 Swiss households, using the waste collected from the Ticino Canton.

Amager Bakke in Copenhagen

(Sky view of the Amager Bakke’s Plant in Copenhagen, Denmark)

In Copenhagen, Amager Bakke ’s Waste-to-Energy plant provides a blueprint for cities across Europe on how to best deal with non-recyclable waste to generate heat and electricity for their inhabitants, but also highlights that modern plants can bring social added-value to their surrounding community.

The facility manages the non-recyclable waste of approximately 645,000 people and about 68,000 companies from Copenhagen and 4 other municipalities. In return, it provides electricity to 80.000 households and district heating to 90,000 apartments.

But that’s not all! It is no mistake if the plant is also known as “Copenhill”, culminating at 100 meters with an accessible rooftop covered with vegetation and perfect for hiking. If you are not fond of walking, Copenhill also includes the tallest climbing wall of the world and a ski slope! Otherwise, impossible to do in a city, these activities are just one metro away in Copenhagen.

If you want to know more about the state-of-the-art of the Amager Bakke Plant in Copenhagen, we recommend you to watch this video about the plant for the future and as part of our ‘Beauty in the Beast’ series. 

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