Methane, the second most prevalent greenhouse gas after carbon dioxide, is emitted in large quantities from modern engineered landfills unless it is collected and flared (burnt). For this reason educing carbon emissions from landfill is important in any effort to minimize the effcts of climate change.
Under the the Kyoto Protocol first agreed in 1997, each of the the developed nations participating set their own a target reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at achieving a reduction of 20 percent below 1990 levels for 2010, and a longer term goal of 60 percent below by 2050. The EU has set an eight percent target by 2008-2012 and introduced the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2005 to try and achieve this. The target for 2010 was met in general and by the UK.
The signatory EU nations have implemented two forms of measures on their industries, punitive and incentive, to ensure that greenhouse gas emissions will continue to be reduced, and in particular in respect of landfills.
Incentive for Collecting Landfill Gas and Using it to Generate Electricity to Reducing Carbon Emissions from Landfill
To reduce emissions of landfill gas into the atmosphere, the EU Landfill Directive seeks to reduce the production of methane gas from landfills in the home nation, and establishes a legal requirement for landfill gas control (collection and flaring as a minimum) in all EU Countries. So, by this measure damaging, methane emissions from landfills have been substantially reduced and the government incentives provided by subsidy of the unit rate paid for the electricity, have been effective.
Similar bonuses which vary between the EU nations, have allowed landfill gas collection and electricity generation to become a profitable activity in throughout the EU nations.
For example, in the United Kingdom there was a government scheme called ROCS, which provided the main incentive initially, and now that has been replaced for new projects by the enhanced rates paid under the Feed-in-Tarrif scheme, and the renewable heat initiative (RHI). Whereas, the Climate Change Levy continues to provide a form of economic dis-incentive for large companies who continue to produce high carbon emissions.
Since 2002, the first renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) were auctioned by the government energy quango ‘Ofgem’ at prices of around 7p/KWh for landfill gas. This price has been maintained as electricity prices havce risen since, at around three times the normal tariff price for electricity (which was 2.5p/KWh in 2002).
EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS)
In the Indian sub-continent for example the incentive to Indians to install landfill gas emissions reduction “Energy from Waste schemes” (EfW) has come from the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), called ‘cap and trade’ by some, through the beneficiary nation’s “National Allocation Plans” (NAP).
The introduction of ROCs helped increase the UK generation capacity from 1,200GWh per year of landfill gas capacity in 1998, to 3,200GWh per year in 2003.
The EU ETS was introduced in 2005 and it originally set a price for additional allowances at €40/t CO2 for Phase 1 from 2005 to 2007, and €1 00/t CO2 for Phase 2 from 2008 to 2012. It is intended that emission allowances are traded in a free market. Prices were expected to be near €5/t CO2 at the start of Phase 1, €9/t CO2 at the start of Phase 2, rising to €5-30/t CO2 by 2012.
For the nations of the the world which have chosen to participate in the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) it allows industrialised countries to invest in developing countries to reduce greenhouse gases and qualify for “Certified Emission Reductions” (CER).
CDM applies to landfill gas where landfill gas is subject to regulation to combat methane concentration (ie migration), but capture of the gas is not normally mandatory under law in those coutries.
Electricity generated by landfill gas has much lower carbon emissions than the electricity generated from fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas.
There is, as a result of the actions described above, now a wonderful opportunity for the UK and Europe-wide landfill gas industry, together with UK financial institutions, to initiate landfill gas combustion and generation schemes in the developing countries including and help reducing carbon emissions from landfill.