Municipal solid waste (MSW), which in crude terms is garbage, is a major nuisance for any country. Most have come up with municipal waste power plants to not only generate electricity but more importantly get rid of the garbage by burning it.
The power regulator, Nepra, recently announced the upfront tariff for MSW power projects in Pakistan, which is a welcome move. In its order, the regulator highlights that more than 20 million tons of MSW is produced in the country with a growth rate of almost 2.4 percent.
One look around major cities such as Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Quetta can affirm this fact. MSW has become a major problem especially in light of the rapid urbanisation currently underway in the country. Indeed, thousands of victims have succumbed to waste-related diseases because of lack of proper disposal facilities.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA, MSW contains three different categories of waste. These include biomass, materials such as paper, cardboard, foodwaste, leaves, as well as non-biomass combustible materials such as plastics and other petroleum made synthetic materials. Lastly there are non-combustible materials including glass and metals.
For a reference point, the US produced nearly 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity by burning 29 million tons of MSW in 2015 using 71 waste to energy (WtE) plants! So, Pakistan that is producing 20 million plus MSW annually certainly has great opportunity in the field.
Currently, the Punjab government is conducting a feasibility study for a 40MW WtE project in Lahore. According to Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) roughly 7000 tons of waste is created in the metropolis in a day out of which 1000 is given to DG Khan Cement. That’s 2.5 MSW in a year so the project will have plenty of garbage to burn.
The regulator has decided an upfront levelised tariff of Rs10.507/kWh for MSW power projects and has allowed a project cost of $3.5 million per MW. This seems to be reasonable and comparable to other projects in neighbouring countries. This column believes other provinces should also pro-actively make efforts to set-up MSW power project. There is an abundance of garbage and plenty of power shortages to go around.