By Hamza al Jefri, General Manager, Waste to Energy, Masdar
Sharjah has an ambitious goal to become the first zero-waste city in the Middle East by diverting all of its municipal waste away from landfill sites by 2020.
Through a pioneering partnership to develop the country’s first waste-to-energy plant in the emirate, the new facility will play a significant role in achieving the UAE’s clean energy ambitions, while also paving the way for other similar projects to be launched in the country and across the MENA region.
Under development by the Emirates Waste to Energy Company , a joint venture between Bee’ah, the country’s leading environmental management company and Masdar, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, the Sharjah Waste-to-Energy Facility will divert more than 300,000 tonnes of municipal waste away from landfill sites each year when it begins operations in the fourth quarter of 2021.
Not only will the facility contribute to Sharjah's effort to meet its “zero waste-to-landfill” target, but it will also contribute to the UAE’s commitment to deliver on its 2021 goal of diverting 75 per cent of solid waste away from landfills. The plant will also support the country’s aim of creating a low-carbon economy by displacing 450,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
The problem of dealing with household trash, otherwise known as municipal solid waste (MSW), is not unique to the UAE. More than 2 billion tonnes of MSW are generated globally each year. The World Bank reports that with rapid population growth and increased urbanisation, annual waste generation is expected to increase by 70 per cent from 2016 levels to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2050.
In low-income countries, as much as 90 per cent of waste is disposed in unregulated dumps or openly burned, creating serious health, safety, and environmental issues.
With the world’s ongoing waste crisis and the challenges involved in managing it safely and effectively, many countries, including those in the GCC, are recognising the potential of waste to energy. The waste-to-energy model helps to address common issues such as excessive landfilling, the reuse of waste landfills, the high cost of waste collection and management, and the need to develop more sustainable power sources.
The Sharjah WTE Facility under development by Emirates Waste to Energy Company will use proven “grate-based” waste-to-energy technology for the first time in the UAE. The processed waste produces heat, which drives an electrical turbine. With a total capacity of 30 megawatts (MW), the plant will supply electricity directly to the grid and energise an estimated 28,000 homes.
The ﬂue gas of the waste processing will be environmentally treated before being released into the atmosphere, while the by-products, such as bottom ash and fly ash, will make useful construction materials.
The WTE facility forms a core part of the UAE’s roadmap for sustainable waste management, while demonstrating that energy and waste challenges are connected.
Designed to meet the strictest environmental standards and comply with the European Union’s Best Available Techniques, the WTE facility will help to diversify power generation sources in the UAE, as well as reduce the reliance on landfills in traditional waste management.
The successful completion of the project by the end of 2021 will also further raise the profile of Sharjah as an investment destination.
Bee’ah and Masdar moved ahead with the plant after securing financing commitments from a consortium including Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD), Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB), Siemens Financial Services, and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), and Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).
The 20-year term loan deal of US$162 million was the first of its kind in the region, bringing local and international banks together to finance the project on a non-recourse basis, illustrating the strength of the investment community’s confidence in the potential of sustainable waste management solutions in the UAE.
Further demonstrating a successful commercial structure and economic viability of WTE technology in the UAE, the transaction has earned a number of prestigious industry awards. These include IJ Global MENA Waste Deal of the Year, Project Finance International’s (PFI) Clean Energy Deal of the Year Award for the Middle East and Africa 2018, and Structured Loan Deal of the Year at the Bonds, Loans and Sukuk Middle East Awards 2018.
In conclusion, the world-class partnership between Masdar and Bee’ah has set a precedent for a successful model of a 100 percent UAE venture, which has created a platform to replicate similar projects based on our combined extensive capabilities to help other countries and city authorities to solve their waste management issues.