Under the Europe 2020 Strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, the Flagship Initiative for achieving a resource-efficient Europe aims to create a framework for policies that support Europe’s transition towards a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy where resource efficiency minimizes the amount of waste produced in a circular economy.
To achieve these goals the Flagship Initiative calls for a 20-20-20 target by 2020:
- 20% reduction in energy usage,
- 20% increase in renewable energy,
- 20% reduction in EU greenhouse gas levels compared to 1990 levels.
To achieve these goals the EU aims to, by 2020, manage waste as a resource with the aim of increasing recycling rates to reduce pressure on demand for primary raw materials, help reuse valuable materials that would have been wasted and reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and processing, which will in turn boost the EU’s competitiveness, ensure security of supply of essential resources, fight climate change and limit the environmental impacts of resource use.
A crucial area for improved resource efficiency is water as it’s an essential component of the agricultural, industrial and energy sectors. Reduced water availability would impact on economic output and energy production. Despite this, 20-40 percent of Europe’s water is wasted. Water efficiency could be improved by 40 percent through technological innovations. This would help ensure water resources are used sustainably and the energy footprint of water-using activities kept low.
Amsterdam’s Waternet reducing water-energy nexus pressures
In the context of reducing water-energy nexus pressures, Amsterdam’s main wastewater treatment plant is creating energy from sewage sludge reducing the need for water in electricity production in the Netherlands. In particular, the city’s main wastewater treatment plant ‘Amsterdam West’, operated by Waternet, is located beside a waste-to-energy plant operated by AEB Waste to Energy Company. The close proximity enables an exchange of energy flows between the two plants with large environmental benefits: Amsterdam West produces 25,000 m3/day of biogas and 100,000 tons of sewage sludge per year for burning at the waste-to-energy plant. The energy produced in the waste-to-energy plant is then used to power the Amsterdam West treatment plant. In total, the integration of the two plants produces 20,000MWh/year of electricity and 50,000 GJ/year of heat saving 1.8million m3/year of natural gas, resulting in avoided greenhouse gas emission of 3,200 tons per year.
Amsterdam’s waste-to-energy innovation reduces the quantity of water and energy required in treating wastewater, and supports the mainstreaming in the Netherlands and Europe of waste reduction and high-quality separation of waste for secondary use.