Under a new deal signed with the borough of Southwark, French waste firm Veolia will transport black bag rubbish to a Bermondsey incinerator where it will be converted into heat and sent back.
Some 2,500 homes across five council estates will benefit from the new system.
New system will drive down energy bills
According to local councillors, the initiative should drive heating bills down, as residents will no longer need as much gas and electricity. Timing could not be better, with the average price of gas rising by 41% over the past six years, while the cost of electricity has increased by 20%.
Speaking to the Financial Times, councillor Barrie Hargrove commented: “Costs of heating for individual council leaseholders are estimated to be 10% cheaper than the average they have been paying for gas over the past few years.”
While this type of scheme is common in many European cities, they have not proved as popular in the UK and this is the first of its type in London. The process will make use of the SELCHP incinerator in Deptford and Veolia’s separate recycling plant in Southwark will provide some of the fuel for the facility.
Greenpeace has previously warned that such plants release harmful toxins into the air. However, Rosamund Beattie, chair of the leaseholders association at Four Squares has said these concerns have not been raised regarding the waste heat plant.
People ‘generally favourable’ towards waste-to-heat
Speaking on the scheme, Beattie said: “Generally, people are very favourable towards it. If they can burn the waste so landfill isn’t being filled at the same rate as it is and at the same time harvest the heat, it seems a win-win situation.”
However, former Labour MP Alan Simpson claimed that such schemes are too difficult to build in established, older cities such as London, as residents become upset by interruptions such as roadworks.
The former politician, who now works as an energy consultant, said that district heating is best suited to new developments, towns or estates.
UK to see more waste-to-heat schemes?
Estelle Brachlianoff, head of UK and Northern Europe for Veolia, said the company is hoping to get more businesses into its Southwark network.
She explained that while the scheme is starting off with homes, it is hoping to branch out to business customers as soon as possible.
What’s more, Ian Manders, acting director of the Combined Heat and Power Association, estimates that the rising popularity of district heating projects will require funding of £500 million over the next two years.
According the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the amount of waste going to landfill has almost halved over the past five years. Meanwhile, the amount being put into incineration has shot up by 60%.