This week, Dr. José A. Herrera, Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development and Climate Change, led a Maltese delegation to Estonia for bilateral talks with his Estonian counterpart Mr. Siim Kiisler on several matters of mutual interest. In particular, Dr. Herrera and his delegation made an insightful visit to the Iru waste incineration plant of Eesti Energia yesterday to get acquainted with the operations of such a plant in the light of Malta’s decision to invest in a Waste-to-Energy facility as part of its strategy towards waste management.
“Malta, with its nearly half a million inhabitants, has, over the years, faced the challenge of finding an alternative management solution to landfilling. At the same time, there are clear opportunities for investing in a waste to energy facility to move up the waste hierarchy in its management solutions whilst increasing the country’s resilience to manage its energy mix, waste arisings and natural resources,” said Dr. Herrera. Malta has already studied its waste to energy options and based on the advice of a number of local and foreign experts in the field has already decided to go for a moving grate technology.
„Estonia’s experience shows that after commissioning of Iru waste incineration plant in 2013, large-scale disposal of mixed municipal waste to landfill sites has ceased. Landfilling is not a reasonable nor sustainable activity and the Maltese delegation saw at first hand the operation of the Iru Power Plant and was made aware of Estonia’s experience in order to gain useful insights into alleviating this problem back home, “ explained Aavo Kärmas, Chairman of the Board of Enefit Green, subsidiary of Eesti Energia that operates Iru waste incineration plant.
“European Union has set a number of target figures, which all member states need to equally meet, for directing waste management to a more economical path. Each county has their own problems and challenges, of course, but nobody should sit alone on their pile of waste and wonder what to do with it. Once all useful resource has been picked out from the waste, then producing electricity from the rest would be a very wise thing to do. But in case of all new investments, we need to keep in mind that they wouldn’t prevent investments made to waste recycling,” explained Siim Kiisler, Estonian Minister of the Environment.
According to Kärmas, the calorific value of mixed municipal waste is similar to that of oil shale and chipped wood, and from this perspective Malta’s waste to energy facility could alleviate the problem of waste disposal, as well as enhancing its energy production mix by constructing a similar waste-to-energy plant.
“Malta and Tallinn can be compared by their number of inhabitants. Although the Maltese delegation was aware that the technology adopted by Estonia looks good on paper, understandably they wished observe at first hand how the precise operation of the plant and its impact on the environment notably on ambient air quality. For example, the purification and treatment systems of the waste incineration plant are so powerful and effective that emissions to air can be compared to those of just about twenty private houses that are heated by wood,“ explained Kärmas.
The Iru Power Plant which is administered by Enefit Green, is a combined heat and power plant located on the boundary between Tallinn and Maardu, where a power unit using mixed municipal waste as fuel, and that is able to process up to 250 000 tons of mixed municipal waste annually, was commissioned in 2013. Mixed municipal waste is used in power plant as the main fuel and, if necessary, natural gas may be used too. As a reserve fuel, fuel oil can also be used. The electric power capacity of the Iru Power Plant is 131 MW with a thermal output of 618 MW and a thermal output in combined production regime of 270 MW. Iru Power Plant supplies heat to the district heating network of Tallinn and Maardu.