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20 Apr, 2009 04:15

Garbage power: household rubbish provides buzz

Moscow has turned to generating electricity from its 5 million tones of annual refuse, with plans for 6 new incinerators to turn household waste into watts.

On average, each of us generates around 500 kg of waste a year. In Russia, most of piles up in pyramidal heaps of garbage near the urban areas, but some manages to get transformed into energy.

Europe started burning waste decades ago to generate electricity – Russia is just starting. Austria's EVN built Moscow's first waste-to-energy plant a year ago.

Garbage from a waste disposal centre in Moscow will soon become electricity – operators say 700 of these plants around world produce more power than the total output of wind and solar energy. To make power supplies convenient the firm built the incinerator inside the city and spent more than $80 million – from a total project cost of more than $250 million – on building an environmentally friendly system. Patrick Boisits, Project Manager at EVN Ekotechprom MSZ 3 says the investment framework is positive for the project.

“We have the security that we can work here for many years, and so for us its a safe way to invest money and get it back with a normal profit rate.”

French infrastructure developer EIDV is now building another Moscow's incinerator. It says infrastructure projects are based on public-private partnership and less risky than many others according to Director, Adrien Durazzini.

“If you do a real estate investment on the same way, you will have the same trouble to do your permission, but after completion, your cash is at risk due to the tenant. If you look at the Moscow real estate market now, it has been collapsing strongly, while the infrastructure project is depending on one good quality client."

Experts say Moscow alone generates enough waste for several more incinerators. Developers say banks are more willing to leverage infrastructure projects, and the cost of debts is lower. But it seems that it isn't just financial constraints which are obstacles to development of the waste-to-energy business, with environmental campaigners largely unimpressed.