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Turning Trash into Power in Peru

  A successful World Bank-supported waste-to-energy project:

Waste to energy plant at the Huaycoloro landfill near Lima, Peru

January 6, 2012—“Can my trash really be turned into electricity?”

This was the question of the day at the November inauguration of a World Bank-supported energy plant that is fueled by a landfill in the Peruvian desert―the first ever in Peru. The plant’s electricity, which is now pumped into the national grid, comes from capturing the methane gas produced by the rotting trash of the Huaycoloro landfill, near Lima.

Petramas, the Peruvian private company managing the landfill and plant, receives millions of tons of waste from the Lima area every year.

By capturing the methane―a greenhouse gas―the plant is delivering climate change benefits. And because the clean energy displaces the use of fossil fuels, the project is generating carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

As trustee of the Netherlands Clean Development Mechanism Facility, the Bank is purchasing those credits from Petramas and therefore, helping to finance the project.

As of today, 234,575 carbon credits―or Certified Emissions Reductions― have been issued by the UNFCCC, representing the equivalent tons of carbon dioxide avoided by the project. Up to one million tons are expected to be generated by 2014.

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Huaycoloro landfill

“The project is unusual in that it was conceived through the visionary leadership of a private company which paved the way for a successful public-private partnership with the municipal government. The same leadership also pushed Petromas to be the first in Peru to produce energy from a landfill,” says John Morton, a World Bank Senior Urban Environment Specialist that focuses on solid waste issues in the Bank's Latin America and the Caribbean Region (LCR).

Ousmane Dione, the World Bank Sector Leader in Peru, believes there are many reasons to celebrate the inauguration of the plant.

“First, the mobilization of domestic private capital to invest in a new sector despite the potential risks. Second, the promotion of renewable energy, which contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and cleaner air. And third, the adoption of a technology appropriate to the Peruvian reality and developed by national engineering experts,” says Dione.

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Ousmane Dione, Sector Leader for Peru (left) and Jorge Zegarra Reatequi, Petramas Chief Executive Officer (right)
Because of the site’s geographical and geological uniqueness, waste disposal is low cost and has minimal social and environmental impacts. Ground water there is located more than 200 meters below the surface which―combined with the arid climate―eliminates the risk of contamination and the associated investments to address it. The area also has an abundant supply of soil that is used free of charge to cover the new waste each day. The estimated cost of disposal at the site is $4 per ton of garbage which is less than half of what other modern landfills cost. Moreover, the area is under-populated. No one lives near the landfill.

The project, which is managed by LCR Senior Energy Specialist David Reinstein, is one of three Bank-led projects currently producing clean energy in the region. The second powers the city lights and metro transit system in Monterrey, Mexico. The third, near Punta del Este, Uruguay, provides electricity to the national grid.

The Bank's Latin America and the Caribbean Region is engaged in more landfill gas facilities as part of its carbon finance portfolio and landfill investment lending program, and is planning to scale up its activities through programmatic approaches, for example across a city or a region, to provide carbon finance for these types of facilities throughout Brazil.

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