Converting solid urban waste into energy

Project description

Title: Converting solid urban waste into energy
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Mexico
Partners: Mexican Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT); Mexican Ministry of Energy (SENER)
Lead executing agency: Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID)
Overall term: 2014 to 2018

Mexico. Organic municipal waste. © GIZ


Mexico’s demand for energy is growing at an annual rate of around four per cent and is largely met using oil, coal and natural gas. This emerging economy is the world’s ninth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, accounting for almost 1.7 per cent of total emissions. More than three quarters of the population now lives in urban areas. The consumption patterns of most of these 95 million people – who generate about 42 million tonnes of waste each year – are not very sustainable. The bulk of solid urban waste is consigned to landfill and has so far been used to generate energy only sporadically.


The option of converting waste to energy has been introduced as a way of recovering solid urban waste in Mexico.


Working on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), GIZ and its partner institutions are introducing the option of converting waste to energy as a sustainable way to recover solid urban waste. GIZ is advising the Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT), the Mexican Secretariat of Energy (SENER) and other national decision-makers on improving the relevant political framework. A cooperation platform is being set up together with the partners enabling the institutions to coordinate their work. Civil society and the private sector are also to be brought on board.

The project investigates whether and how this innovative approach can be incorporated into existing support programmes and sources of financing. It works together with the partners to devise strategies for potential economic incentives that promote technologies at community level, in addition to strategies for market development. National institutions, such as the Mexican infrastructure bank BANOBRAS, the National Water Commission CONAGUA and the energy regulator CRE are involved in order to pave the way for demonstration projects.

The successful implementation of projects to convert solid urban waste into energy relies on informed and qualified decision-makers from the political, public service, academic and private sectors. The project is thus intensifying its range of training services, offering technical advice and analyses and encouraging the exchange of knowledge. It provides technical and management consultancy for pilot plants where suitable technologies are tested. The project works together with the private sector during implementation where possible.

The results of successful demonstration projects are disseminated, thereby raising awareness among key decision-makers. Good practices serve as a reference for the commissioning of plants throughout the country. Preferred technologies include biogas plants, the use of solid urban waste in cement production as a substitute for fossil fuels, waste incineration with energy recovery and the use of biomethane as a fuel.

Mexico. Municipal waste incineration plant. © GIZ


The issue of converting solid urban waste into energy has been placed high on the political agenda. Following a planning workshop involving all stakeholders in 2014, GIZ was able to set up a platform for all participating institutions to share information and cooperate. The project was also incorporated in the Interministerial Committee on Bioenergy Development. This committee is made up of the heads of the secretariats of finance, environment, energy, economy and agriculture.

The Government of Mexico defined solid urban waste as a source of clean energy in its 2014 energy law. The legal framework for disseminating the project approach has improved as a result.

Additional information