Heat from waste incineration heat is not sustainable, renewable or affordable

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In a bid to prevent the potential misclassification of waste incineration’s heat output, the Cool Heating Coalition has signed a letter urging the European Commission to not classify heat from waste incineration as ‘waste heat’ within the regulatory framework of the Renewable Energy Directive (RED). The misclassification would pose significant challenges to sustainability goals and could undermine efforts to transition towards cleaner energy sources.

Waste incineration, while yielding energy, is not a sustainable or clean heat solution and should not be considered renewable. The environmental impacts, disincentives for waste prevention and recycling, and the perpetuation of unsustainable practices are among the key concerns.

The European Commission’s guidance on the RED will advise Member States on what should be considered ’waste heat and cold’, of relevance for decarbonising district heating. Under the updated RED, using waste heat in district heating is considered as renewable energy and counts towards the national targets for increasing the share of renewable energy. The definition is also relevant for the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED), which too addresses waste heat in district heating.

The waste-burning industry has been trying to coax the Commission and Member States into classifying waste incineration, also known as Waste-to-Energy, as sustainable waste heat. This would directly undermine heating decarbonisation, as waste incineration is an extremely carbon-intensive process.

The coalition urges policymakers to prioritize genuine renewable energy sources for district heating, such as heat pumps, solar thermal, and geothermal, which offer a cleaner and more sustainable path to achieving energy goals.

That’s why the Cool Heating Coalition calls for the explicit exclusion of waste incineration from the scope of ‘waste heat’ targets in the RED, prioritization of waste prevention, ambitious recycling targets, and investment in innovative clean energy generation technologies.

Read the letter here.

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