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Waste Management Opens New Plant

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Waste Management (WM) has opened a Gas-To-Energy power plant at Lockwood Landfill in Northern Nevada. The Gas-To-Energy power plant, the first and the only one in Nevada, has been built to meet the growing demand for renewable energy.

Lockwood Landfill, going online since March, will be producing electricity from garbage (landfill) that cannot be recycled. The power plant will be using landfill gas to produce up to 3.2 megawatts of electricity; enough for powering more than 1,800 homes.

Landfill gas as a renewable source of energy has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (:EPA). Decomposed organic materials produce methane gas which is collected and finally converted to energy using a certain technology. Energy thus produced is seen as a welcome alternative to fossil fuels like natural gas, coal and oil.  

The company owns 131 landfill gas-to-energy operation plants in North America, including the one at Lockwood. From these facilities it generates enough energy to power a staggering 475,000 homes. Infact, the company produces renewable energy more than the whole solar industry in the U.S.

In addition to this project, Waste Management has several other renewable programs under its wings. These include programs that generate liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (:CNG) to power trucks and to build single-steam recycling centre at Cambridge, Ontario.

The first quarter of 2012 looks weak for Waste Management driven by increased pressure on its own pricing initiatives as municipalities are keen to cut expenses in the face of budget shortfalls and competitive pricing on municipal contracts. Therefore, management’s decision to roll back some price increases to keep the business running will likely be headwinds in the first half of fiscal 2012. 

Moreover, the company’s exposure to market price volatility or electricity has increased over the last few years as long-term power purchase agreements have expired. Electricity prices have remained stubbornly low and are expected to be at low levels in the first half of 2012 as well.

During 2011, approximately 54% of the electricity revenue at Waste Management’s waste-to-energy facilities was subject to current market rates. The company estimates that nearly 56% of its electricity revenue at its waste-to-energy facilities will be at market rates by the end of 2012.

The shares of Waste Management currently retain a Zacks #4 Rank (short-term “Sell” rating). It faces competition from companies like Republic Services, Inc. (RSG) and Clean Harbors, Inc. (CLH).

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