What is the Cost of Waste to Energy Projects in India?

Every region in India has highlighted the difficulties of all kinds of sanitary landfills that have plagued the nation. Most innovators suggest the alternative to landfills is converting waste to energy by burning garbage to create electricity.

The Gasification Process as a Waste to Energy Project in India

Gasification is a process where MSW is heated in the presence of limited oxygen leading to the generation of biogas. This process depends on the thermal breakdown of organic matter and can be used to generate electricity efficiently and even as an energy source for other applications.

The Center for Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP) relies on a gasification model that leverages its process modelling software to treat MSW. Gasification technology helps penetrate the MSW infrastructure in all Indian towns and cities.

Incentives for gasification projects

The waste to energy (WTE) plants, now benefit from several government subsidies, from MNRE of up to Rs. 2 crore per megawatt reserved for commercial waste to energy projects. For the demonstration projects of waste to energy plants, the government offers direct subsidies of up to 50 per cent of the plant’s capital cost (up to Rs. 3 crore per MW). Municipalities also receive handsome incentives of Rs. 15 lakh per MW for facilitating local garbage free of cost to these waste to energy plants for a period of up to 30 years. It is interesting to note that even state nodal agencies can receive incentives of Rs. 5 lakh per MW for promoting and monitoring all kinds of waste to energy projects.

With ample incentive for government bodies and private businesses to roll in the funds, India still has to leverage the waste to energy plants in India.

Investment in Waste to Energy through gasification process in India

The Waste to Energy Cost in India differs from project to project, with the change in tipping fee involved along with partnership ration between the government and tech solution providers.

Bangalore’s MSW (excluding paper and plastic for recycling) if gasified, can generate 28 MW of electricity while the remaining sludge can be used in composts or in bio-plastic manufacturing.

The cost of installing a gasification waste to energy plant is – Rs. 15-18 crores/ MW (cost of electricity if sold at Rs. 12-14/ kWh. The plants are not feasible in themselves as cost of electricity from other power sources range between Rs 2.5-10/kWh (coal to solar).

The Lucknow plant which is based on bio-methanation was developed by Enkem Engineers of Chennai at price-point of Rs. 76 crore with MNRE offering subsidies worth Rs. 15 crore. The project involved 300 tonnes of garbage processed into 115 tonnes of volatile solids that after incineration generate 5 MW of electricity. The power output ranged between 0.2 MW – 0.6 MW on operational days. Only 115 tonnes of 300 tonnes was used, while the rest had to be dumped.

Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) also adopted a similar system taking care of 50% of the city’s waste in alliance with Concord Blue Technology Private Ltd. The contract was set up for 25 years to implement the patented ‘gasification-reformer tower.’ The 2.5 MW plant, now scaled to 10 MW, processes 650 tpd (ton per day). The tipping fee for the tech solution providers was around Rs. 300 per tonne. The cost of the plant was 14-15 crore/ MW with the generated cost of electricity coming to Rs. 13/ kWh. This is offset by actual price paid by the electricity board, the tipping fee involved and other incentives.

Similarly, Tamil Nadu hosted a 50-acre site for a gasification project worth Rs. 100 crores ($18.5 million) with a public private partnership under the DBOT model, to process 300 tonnes of solid waste on a daily basis, generating around 3 MW of electricity.

Making the Waste to Energy projects viable

To be able to make Waste to Energy projects financially viable,

  • Municipality needs to offer incentives to developers with a “tipping fee” paid to the developer per tonne of MSW.
  • Segregation of waste at source is highly important to make the system more efficient for energy recovery.
  • Collaboration of political institutions with technical teams for project clearance and rehabilitation of all rag-pickers should be on priority.

To conclude, the waste to energy cost in India depends on the system but one can make it feasible by aligning objectives of all stakeholders, involve a suitable tipping fee and establish proper financial pathways with a proper site to set up the entire waste to energy project.

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