Ahead of the World Waste to Energy and Resources Summit, we spoke to Khaled Al Huraimel, Group CEO at Bee’ah about key developments in waste to energy in the UAE, the biggest opportunities within the Gulf region and the impact of emerging technologies.
What key developments have you seen emerge in the waste-to-energy industry in the UAE over the last 12 months?
Since the inception of our waste to energy project, many regulations and waste management policies in the UAE have become more mature and refined. The introduction of a new regulatory framework for landfill taxation, which is under discussion within the government, will sustain the waste to energy industry through a good revenue stream (gate fees). This project is also demonstrating the growing confidence of the financial sector in clean technology and waste to energy, since it was financed through a deal that was the first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa. A consortium of five banks provided the financing on a non-recourse basis through this deal, showing increasing private sector participation in the Nation’s sustainability drive.
How far has technology come in driving forward efficiencies?
Mass burn incineration technology is the most thoroughly demonstrated technology in the waste-to-energy field today, with more than 1,500 plants in operation worldwide. Mass-burning incinerators have been deployed in Europe and Japan for municipal solid waste disposal for nearly 30 years, where their acceptance has been rapid and widespread. New advanced thermal treatment technologies such as gasification and pyrolysis are advancing at a rapid pace. These new technologies will definitely help in enhancing the environmental performance of the process, and in achieving the Circular Economy targets.
If you could fast-track one emerging technology to bring to market, what would it be and what key difference would it make?
We are currently witnessing the era of digitalisation, that has led to the widespread adoption of robotics and Artificial Intelligence systems. These technologies will improve the efficiency and long-term sustainability of Material Recovery Facilities and enhance the process of converting waste to energy, due to their unique capabilities of identifying and separating a wide range of waste materials. Closing the gap between current recycling and energy recovery efforts requires a holistic overview of the data involved in every operational step, and AI is beginning to help us get there. With a much deeper understanding of the data at hand, operators in every part of the waste management ecosystem can make the right decisions about how we deal with waste in all its forms. Autonomous and AI-powered vehicular technology will also play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions and help companies like us to optimise our operations by recommending more efficient routes for waste collection. In recognition of this, 2018 saw Bee’ah become the first company in the Middle East to place an order for 50 of Tesla’s Semi electric trucks.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities?
With regional waste levels on the rise and dependency on fossil fuels being forced into the background, waste to energy is a good fit for the GCC’s future energy needs. Governments across the GCC are starting to initiate laws and regulations in order to achieve a strong waste management structure, and waste to energy is a fundamental pillar of this ecosystem. In line with its vision of diversifying fuel sources for power generation, Oman is building its first waste-to-energy IPP, in addition to supporting the waste management sector by reducing waste volume and demand for landfills. The Saudi Arabia government has also announced plans to develop waste to energy facilities with a gross output of 3GW by 2030, in a bid to diversify its energy mix under the banner of Vision 2030.
What will you be looking out for at the World Waste to Energy and Resources Summit this May?
Bee’ah is committed to exploring all the sustainable solutions that are available in the market. The World Waste to Energy and Resources Summit is a great venue to meet decision makers and market leaders to discuss industry trends, and to collaborate on the best available solutions.
Khalid will be speaking at the summit on The Waste Management CEO Forum at 9 am on May 22.
Visit beeah.ae/en to find out more about Bee’ah.