EfW in NSW – Where are we now?

Esther Hughes, Senior Environmental Planner, MRA Consulting Group, reviews EfW’s progress.

An article on the MRA blog dated July 2014 is a summary of the Energy from Waste (EfW) symposium held the same year in Lorne, Victoria, which included a panel representing all states and territories except the Northern Territory and the act.

The conversation is familiar to this decade – landfill avoidance, thermal efficiencies, waste hierarchy, cannibalizing recycling, community involvement, the effect of the landfill tax, and energy-from-waste policies.

So what has changed? Well, a lot and not a lot.

On the policy front, five major states and territories have issued stand-alone EfW policies, placing conditions around many of the key issues that were discussed eight years ago. The ACT has declared this to be a no-go zone for EfW thermal installations. Victoria has placed a cap on EfW throughput.

In the field, and the first in Australia using modern technology, two large-scale EfW thermal installations have been approved in Western Australia, followed by five in Victoria. The importance of these facilities in spearheading the modern alternative to landfills should not be underestimated. An Australian-based facility provides relevant data for further potential developments and can help ease fears about the EfW industry. Hopefully our next WA vacation will include a visit to Kwinana.

One wonders what New South Wales, the most populous state with the highest waste tax, has achieved in terms of progress towards its first energy-from-waste installation.

In September 2021, the NSW Government published the Energy infrastructure plan from waste 2021in which he identifies three principles that would guide future investments in energy-from-waste infrastructure.

These are: to improve certainty for communities and industry around acceptable locations and facilities; commit to exercising caution in high population areas and exceeding air quality standards, and maximizing the efficiency of infrastructure, waste management, innovation and waste recovery ‘energy.

The plan focuses on strategic planning that provides economic and employment opportunities in regional areas. Synergies with existing or planned infrastructure, including rail or road transport, are encouraged.

Following the infrastructure plan, on 8 July 2022 the NSW (General) Operations Environmental Protection (Thermal Energy from Waste) Regulations 2022 came into effect. It’s a bit long, but the intent of the amendment is to enforce a blanket ban on thermal treatment of waste (waste energy) in NSW, except in certain circumstances.

There are three exceptions. The activity or work may be carried out in certain premises or premises, the activity may be an established and operational activity at the premises immediately before the prohibition takes effect, and the activity may be carried out to replace a less environmentally friendly fuel under certain conditions.

Neighborhoods that are not energy-from-waste bans include Parkes Activation Neighborhood, Richmond Valley Regional Jobs Neighborhood, Goulburn Mulwaree South Neighborhood and Lithgow West Neighborhood. There are provisions for other areas which have not yet been classified, potentially on a former mining site or a former power generation site.

An EfW facility is also not prohibited if it is an established and operational facility prior to changes to the regulations. Thus, the sites in NSW which currently thermally treat waste – at Berrima and Tumut – are not affected by the regulations.

There are four criteria for establishing an EfW facility that replaces another fuel source:

The replaced fuel must be less environmentally friendly.

The installation had to be working, or had been approved to work, before the modification took place.

At least 90% of the replaced fuel was used for industrial or manufacturing processes on the premises during the year preceding the modification.

At least 90% of the energy recovered from waste-derived fuels will be used for industrial or manufacturing processes in a given year.

By definition, legislation takes into account the recovery of electrical energy, mechanical energy, heat and the production of fuels. It applies to any activity subject to authorisation, which is a waste throughput limit of 200 tonnes per year for energy recovery.

The remarkable impact of the infrastructure plan and regulations is that there are only four constituency locations to establish new EfW facilities. Other opportunities are extremely limited, with five applications in New South Wales already axed as a result. Within constituency planning, however, there is generous support for investments in waste and resource recovery infrastructure.

A Special Activation Area (SAP) is a dedicated area in a regional location identified by the NSW Government to become a thriving business centre. SAPs use accelerated planning, infrastructure investment, government-led studies, and development/corporate concierge.

Parkes is the first of six SAPs to be developed and presents particular opportunities aligned with the East-West Rail Line and the Inland Rail project. The Regional Growth and Development Corporation is responsible for delivering Parkes’ SAP, facilitating expedited approvals for many activities, including thermal power generation facilities and waste management facilities.

The Regional Jobs Precincts is an extension of the SAP program which also aims to accelerate approvals, growth and investment in the NSW region. The Regional Jobs Precinct program is less developed than Parkes, but is likely to follow a similar approval system with specialist studies already commissioned.

A high level of regulatory oversight derives from the NSW Energy from Waste infrastructure plan and associated legislation.

While Parkes is the first key district moving forward, with streamlined development pathways for waste management infrastructure to support the strategic plan and provide industrial green synergies, other opportunities are coming up against regulatory barriers to their development.

On a positive note, within the parameters of the Energy from Waste Policy, the Energy from Waste Infrastructure Plan and the Amended PoEO (General) Regulations, NSW is set to move forward. with the planned approval of its first EfW facility for the thermal treatment of waste. , with regional areas enjoying increased employment and investment opportunities.

For more information contact: [email protected]

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