Enfinium's Mike Maudsley: 'Achieving net zero is no mean feat'

BusinessGreen staff
clock • 5 min read
Enfinium's Mike Maudsley: 'Achieving net zero is no mean feat'

Enfinium CEO Mike Maudsley explains how the energy from waste sector can deliver negative emissions, why the net zero transition needs all industries to play a role, and what the company is doing to encourage more young people to work in the green economy

Mike Maudsley joined enfinium as chief executive officer in 2022. He has over 30 years of experience across the power and utility sector, and was most recently responsible for leading all operating assets at Drax plc. Prior to Drax, he spent six years in the Middle East with Engie.

BusinessGreen: What was your first role in the green economy and what attracted you to the sector?

Mike Maudsley: Before joining the waste sector, I worked for over thirty years in power generation. I have managed a range of power stations from pumped storage and hydropower, combined heat and power, biomass and more. Just before moving to enfinium, I was Group Operations Director for Drax responsible for its UK plants.

This means that, in some ways, I have approached the waste sector with a slightly different set of experiences and a different outlook.

The reason I took this job is because I see a huge potential for the energy from waste sector to pioneer new technologies such as carbon capture. Similar to my time working at the pumped storage and hydropower stations, when that technology was new and innovative, what we are trying to achieve at enfinium feels equally groundbreaking. 

What parts of the green economy are you most excited about?

I'm excited on two fronts: 

Firstly, how we can use our energy better to help local business and communities decarbonise themselves with our heat and Power produced for non-recyclable waste.

And secondly, seeing the developments in Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) technology. This is a technology that is – rightly - garnering significant attention at the moment. There are many innovative solutions being developed the market, and many businesses that are deploying the technology to eliminate emissions.

In July, enfinium will have the first CCS pilot on an energy from waste facility in the UK, supplied by HZI. We will be using it to demonstrate how carbon capture technology can be applied at energy from waste facilities to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. We'll compare different amine solvents and collect data on performance, such as CO2 capture rate, energy consumption, and solvent degradation.

What developments do you think are currently under the radar?

Net zero cannot be achieved unless we removing carbon from the atmosphere to account for the residual emissions from hard to abate sectors. The Climate Change Committee estimates that by 2050, the UK will need around 60 million tonnes of engineered removals of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year to achieve net zero. Currently the UK is producing 0.

The energy from waste sector has the opportunity to play a significant role in achieving this, which I think is often underappreciated.

Should the UK meet its ambitious waste targets, there will still be around 17 million tonnes of unrecyclable waste to manage every year by 2042. The only way to decarbonise all this unrecyclable waste is to install CCS technology on energy from waste facilities.

Installing CCS will not only decarbonise our unrecyclable waste, but will enable energy from waste plants in the UK to create carbon removals - or negative emissions - and generate carbon negative power. The sector could generate around 8 to 10 million tonnes of removals a year - a sixth of the Climate Change Committee target.

This scale of the negative emissions we could generate from waste is certainly under the radar at the moment.

What do you see as the biggest challenges to the net zero transition?

Achieving net zero is no mean feat. It will require lots of difficult decisions to be made and will require every industry to come up with innovative solutions to cut their emissions. It will also require the government to deliver on its policy changes and support for a national CO2 pipeline and storage infrastructure.  However, I'm pleased to see so much attention is being placed on this issue. I'm confident that, through collaboration between government and industry, with the right technology and the necessary investment, we will achieve it.   

What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the green economy?

Go for it - it's a fantastic and growing sector!

I would particularly encourage young people to work in the green economy. It is an area where you will be able to make a huge positive contribution through your career.

It starts with getting the right skills and training. We run a dedicated 3-year apprenticeship programme that combines academic study and practical workshop training with on-the-job, in partnership with the CATCH training facility in the Humber.

You are a finalist at this year's UK Green Business Awards, can you tell us a little bit about your work to advance the green economy?

enfinium is a leading UK energy from waste operator with four operational sites in the UK, in West Yorkshire, Kent and Flintshire, and two in construction.

We divert 2.3 million tonnes of unrecyclable waste from climate-damaging landfill and put it to good use by turning it into home grown energy, enough to power 500,000 UK homes.

Our ambition is to transform our facilities into local ‘decarbonisation hubs' powered by the millions of tonnes of unrecyclable waste the UK will produce for decades to come. Using existing energy from waste infrastructure, enfinium could contribute to heat networks, produce electrolytic hydrogen, or use carbon capture technology to provide durable, high quality carbon removals which will be critical for the UK to achieve net zero by 2050.

What projects or achievements are you most proud of?

We recently launched our Net Zero Transition Plan which set out our commitment to achieve net zero across our own operations by 2033, ahead of the industry target of 2040. It also included a timeline to install CCS across our fleet of energy from waste facilities by 2039, producing 1.2 million tonnes of carbon removals each year.

We are already taking steps to progress this plan. From July, we will have the first live CCS trial at an energy from waste facility. We have also submitted a bid as part of the UK Government's CCS Cluster Programme for our facility in North Wales, Parc Adfer.

I am proud of all the hard work by our team at enfinium that goes towards progressing our Net Zero Transition Plan. 

Enfinium is a sponsor of the UK Green Business Awards 2024. You can book your place at this year's awards here.    

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