Covanta backs away from RPS modification request

By Anna Austin | December 15, 2011

Covanta Energy Corp. has withdrawn its request to the New York State Public Service Commission to include energy from waste (EfW) in its list of applications eligible for the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

The move comes just over three weeks after the NYPSC staff recommended to commissioners that the petition, which was filed in February, be denied.  A vote was expected to occur at the Dec. 9 meeting.

New York’s RPS, which calls for 30 percent renewable energy consumption by 2015, was enforced in 2004. With its inception, the commission decided that electricity generated from the mass incineration of municipal solid waste (MSW) would not be eligible for the RPS, but did recognize the potential for development of new EfW and other generation technology, stating that it would consider the addition of appropriate renewable resources to the RPS eligibility list going forward.

When the program was expanded and strengthened in 2010, it added clean wood separated from construction and demolition debris to its list of eligible feedstocks, but MSW was left out once again.

Multiple environmental organizations opposed Covanta’s petition, arguing that garbage incineration is not renewable energy and should not be given the same incentives as wind and solar power, but Covanta pointed out in its petition that EfW is not intermittent in nature and is a reliable base-load supply of renewable energy. The company also stated that EfW generates substantially more electricity than landfill gas to energy—an RPS eligible technology—while using the same amount of waste, and does so in a more environmentally efficient manner.

Covanta has not responded to a request for comment, but a media relations representative previously stated that even though the RPS inclusion request only covered new plants, not existing ones, the company does not have any new proposals in the works.

Covanta already operates seven EfW facilities across the state.