Waste-To-Energy in the United States: A Social and Economic Assessment

By T. Randall Curlee; Susan M. Schexnayder et al. | Go to book overview
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WTE in the 0.2 to 0.6 quad range for 2000, increasing to between 0.45 to 0.84 quads by 2010, and increasing to between 0.87 to 1.17 quads by 2030.

To place these projections in perspective, consider that total U.S. energy consumption was about 83.4 quads in 1988 and is projected to increase to 97.4 quads in 2000 and to 108.4 quads in 2010 ( Energy Information Administration, 1990). Thus, energy from WTE currently accounts for about 0.4 percent of all U.S. energy consumption. In our base-case, energy from WTE is projected to account for 0.6 percent of U.S. consumption by 2000 and increase to 1.1 percent by 2010. In our low-case, WTE will account for 0.5 and 0.7 percent in 2000 and 2010, respectively. If our high-case scenario is correct, WTE will represent about 0.9 percent of U.S. consumption in 2000 and increase to 1.7 percent by 2010. Thus, WTE is not expected to displace a large percentage of conventional energy forms used in the United States. However, when viewed in an absolute sense, the numbers are not small. For further perspective, consider that the Energy Information Administration (EIA) ( 1991) estimates that U.S. electric utilities consumed about 1.25 quads of petroleum, 2.87 quads of natural gas, and 2.91 quads of hydroelectric power in 1990. The EIA estimates that other energy forms-- including wood, geothermal, wind, photovoltaic, solar, and waste--contributed only 0.2 quads of input energy to electric utilities in 1990. Therefore, to the extent that MSW is used for future electricity generation (and all WTE facilities in the planning phases are slated to produce electricity at least in part), WTE may become a major player in the production of electricity in the coming decades.

See, for example, Hershkowitz ( 1987), Hershkowitz and Salerni ( 1987), Office of Technology Assessment ( 1989), and Williams ( 1991). Hershkowitz and Salerni find that, with respect to Japan, as much as 25 percent of the cost of WTE facilities is paid by the national government in the form of grants to local governments.
For more on the history of WTE adoption in Europe and the United States, see, for example, Brickner ( 1987), Diaz, Savage, and Golueke ( 1982, Chapter 1), Office of Technology Assessment ( 1989, Chapter 6), and Williams ( 1991, Chapter 8).
Information in this subsection is summarized from Government Advisory Associates ( 1991). Additional details about the current WTE industry and potential factors that may have contributed to recent cancellations of WTE projects are found in Chapters 4 and 5 of this work. The reader should note that the number of facilities and initiatives referred to in Chapters 4 and 5 differ in some cases from those given in this chapter. For the analysis purposes in subsequent chapters, some facilities have been deleted from the data set; and in some cases initiatives have been summed over several years rather than taking a "snapshot" of the situation at one particular time, as is done in this chapter.


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