A macroscopic non-steady state energy balance was developed and solved for a composting pile of source-selected organic fraction of municipal solid waste during the maturation stage (13,500 kg of compost). Simulated temperature profiles correlated well with temperature experimental data (ranging from 50 to 70 °C) obtained during the maturation process for more than 50 days at full scale. Thermal inertia effect usually found in composting plants and associated to the stockpiling of large composting masses could be predicted by means of this simplified energy balance, which takes into account terms of convective, conductive and radiation heat dissipation. Heat losses in a large composting mass are not significant due to the similar temperatures found at the surroundings and at the surface of the pile (ranging from 15 to 40 °C). In contrast, thermophilic temperature in the core of the pile was maintained during the whole maturation process. Heat generation was estimated with the static respiration index, a parameter that is typically used to monitor the biological activity and stability of composting processes. In this study, the static respiration index is presented as a parameter to estimate the metabolic heat that can be generated according to the biodegradable organic matter content of a compost sample, which can be useful in predicting the temperature of the composting process. © 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.