At the invitation of Councillor Ian Wingfield (Southwark Borough Council), a group of fourteen stalwarts from the KA assembled on a cold March morning at 199 Knightsbridge to visit South East London Heat and Power, the waste-to-energy plant operated by Veolia in Southwark.
The purpose of our visit was to see how waste from Westminster and neighbouring boroughs is burnt to generate electricity and heat in the heart of London.
Rising waste production, diminishing landfill capacity and increasing regulation in the late 1980s led to the adoption of the “proximity principle” that sought to find ways of taking responsibility for dealing with waste locally, thereby minimising unnecessary transportation out of London.
Built under a design and construct contract with Martin Engineering Systems Limited, the plant was commissioned in 1993 and opened officially by HRH The Prince of Wales in 1994, operating initially as an electricity-only generating plant.
It was not until 2014 that a five-kilometre hot water network was completed to link the plant’s surplus heat to 3000 homes in Southwark’s social housing estates. Use of heat has doubled the plant’s operating efficiency to around 45%. The biodegradable element of waste cuts carbon emissions by some 700,000 tonnes annually, qualifying the plant as a “recovery” rather than a “disposal” operation under EU guidelines.
The plant consumes some 440 thousand tonnes of waste per annum delivering 11K volts through its two connections into the 132K electricity transmission grid. During its life the plant has burnt some 10 million tonnes of waste