The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) signed a pact to procure power from ‘waste to energy’ plant in Kochi at a much higher cost than usual.

Is Kochis proposed waste-to-energy plant a feasible project
news Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 12:57

The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) signed an agreement on Tuesday with GJ Echo Power Pvt Ltd to procure power generated from the state’s first waste-to-energy plant, which will be built by the latter. KSEB entered into the agreement despite serious apprehensions raised by experts about the project’s feasibility.

A waste-to-energy plant was mooted as a long-term solution to manage Kochi’s garbage. The project will be built at a cost of Rs 375 crore by GJ Echo Power and the company will operate the plant for 20 years. This being a centralised waste management measure, the cost of procuring energy will be higher. According to the proposal for this project, unsegregated waste will be dried using bio driers (to remove all moisture from the waste), and then will be converted to energy through gasification.

However, Shibu KN, an independent zero waste consultant, says that the project is not going to be feasible.

“This is centralised waste management. At a time when everyone is moving to decentralised waste management processes to reduce the impact of factors that lead to climate change, why are we implementing a centralised process, which has a high cost of treatment and further increases pollution? Such centralised waste management has not been successful anywhere in India,” says Shibu.

Decentralised waste management requires communities to process waste in their own locality using low-cost mechanisms. On the other hand, a centralised one shifts focus from the source of waste generation to waste disposal sites. It also involves a large economic investment.

“In this technology, they increase the calorific value of the waste and then burn it to create energy. But, the waste that we produce does not have the calorific value required to do this process because about 70% of our organic waste is water. So, they have proposed to dry up the waste using bio driers and that will require up to 20 days. Isn’t this 20 days more than enough to convert this waste into compost without burning it further and creating more pollution?” asks Shibu.

“In theory, the technology requires a drier environment. However, even in Delhi, which is much drier than Kerala, this was not successful,” he says.

Even the company’s official website cites the region’s ‘higher moisture content’ as a key challenge. The company states that they have analysed the day-to-day profile of moisture content and moisture profile of the garbage over the last two years to ensure efficiency.

The project was mooted initially in 2014, and the contract was awarded to GJ Echo Power in 2016.

High energy cost

The high cost of power is another factor which has been looked at apprehensively regarding the plant in the long run. As per the agreement signed by KSEB, it will procure electricity at a cost of Rs 6.17 per unit. According to reports, this is higher than the usual procurement cost of Rs 3.

Even Kerala power minister MM Mani told the media on Tuesday that the rate is higher than usual. He stated that the KSEB will bear the extra expense to encourage such projects, which provide an effective solution to the state’s waste problem. But, how far this will be practical remains to be seen.

Justice AV Ramakrishna Pillai, the chairman of the state-level monitoring committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal, said that the cost of generating power was his only apprehension. “But since the state government has made plans to address the issue, it should not be a problem,” Justice Ramakrishna Pillai told TNM.

Kochi's waste generation

As per the project, Kochi Corporation is required to deliver 300 metric tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) daily for the functioning of the plant. But according to reports, only about 150 metric ton MSW is produced daily in the corporation limits.

“If they have plans to source waste from outside the Corporation’s limits, daily transportation of this will give rise to more concerns,” says Velayudhan PK, president of Vadavucode-Puthencruz Gram Panchayat, where this plant will be located.

The plant will be constructed on 20 acres of land in Brahmapuram, near the existing waste management plant.

“Everything related to waste in Kochi comes to our place. Waste has been dumped here for years, now another plant is also going to come. We are really concerned about the pollution it will cause,” Velayudhan says.

Meanwhile, the company states that ‘leachates and ash residues from the process will be treated within the facility and no further land, air and water pollution will be induced from this plant.’ It also states that the emission levels from the plant will ‘comfortably meet all Indian standards and exceeds European requirements.’

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