Waste-to-energy facilities required to comply with environmental laws, says Briones

Ruth P Briones, Chairman and CEO of Greenergy Solutions Inc. and Convenor of Zero Waste Philippines’ Forum, said that any Waste-to-Energy (WTE) Facility or Material Recovery and Energy Facility (MREF) to be installed in the Philippines should strictly comply with the country’s Clean Air Act and all environmental laws, and not employ waste conversion technologies that produce harmful and hazardous emissions.

These pronouncements were triggered by  series of actions by some environmental groups opposing the proposed establishment of Waste-to-Energy (WTE) facilities using incineration technologies in some cities and municipalities in Mindanao, Philippines.

Briones said that, after conducting a series of studies on the waste stream and the actual analysis of the local waste situation of a certain town or city, the appropriate and right waste conversion and disposal technology will be employed, but the proposed project will not employ the waste incineration process.

It could be noted that Greenergy Solutions Inc. had signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) in September 2011 with five (5) Local Government Units (LGUs), including Pagadian City in Zamboanga Del Sur in Mindanao, Philippines for the establishment and operation of a Proposed Material Recovery and Energy Facility in that province to dispose of its generated municipal solid wastes - a project is now on its development stage.

“The paramount concern is the environment, although commercial viability of the WTE  project is also important. It is not enough that wastes are disposed of totally; we are disposing of waste to reduce pollution, and operators should never intend to dispose of waste in a way that increases greenhouse gas emissions,” Briones reiterated.

Noting that a WTE facility is also a material recovery facility that generates electricity, Briones said that there are waste conversion technologies like anaerobic digestion or Biomethanation processes to dispose of municipal solid waste that are proven to be clean technologies. They generate power and carbon emissions credits under the Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“The Philippine environment is already very fragile, and to install facilities that aggravate its present state, would be a great disservice to the people and the environment. Any WTE facility should comply with existing Philippine laws, particularly the Clean Air Act, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the Climate Change Act. It is not enough for a WTE facility to bring in money to the host town, and not only the commercial viability of a WTE facility should be considered. If this facility complies with the Renewable Energy Law, it will in effect will be commercially feasible in the long run in view of the incentives provided for,”  Briones declared.

Accordingly, the Renewable Energy Law has expressly provided under Section 30 that the Department of Energy (DOE) shall, where practicable, encourage the adoption of waste-to-energy facilities such as, but not limited to, biogas systems. And the DOE shall, in coordination with the DENR, ensure compliance with this provision. As used in the said Act, waste-to-energy technologies shall refer to systems which convert biodegradable materials such as, but not limited to, animal manure or agricultural waste, into useful energy through processes such as anaerobic digestion, fermentation and gasification, among others, subject to the provisions and intent of Republic Act No. 8749 (Clean Air Act of 1999) and Republic Act No. 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000).

“Our intention is to build and operate zero carbon WTE facilities,” the Greenergy Solutions’ executive said.

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