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Fresh fears over lack of support for incinerators

Industry chiefs are concerned that energy-from-waste (EfW) projects could be further undermined by guidance the government is drawing up for councils, MRW has learned.  

Early drafts of the document, which ministers are currently consulting on, were slammed as “unduly negative and weak in supporting EfW” by an influential group of waste professionals.

The concerns were raised at a Renewable Energy Association (REA) meeting last month, which was attended by figures from Sita, Chinook and Imperial College London.

They come after a government-backed study into the potential health risks of incinerators was given the go-ahead last month, sparking fears that key projects could be derailed.

Recently published minutes from the REA’s gasification and pyrolysis group meeting, held on 9 January, said: “The rationale for the EfW seems weak. In the guide there is little mention of waste reduction and resource efficiency.

“It seems unduly negative and weak in supporting EfW, there seems to be a defensive position rather than say this is complementary to recycling. There could be a focus on energy potential/base load, resource, and energy diversity.”

The minutes added: “REA will explore creating a representative sub group which is cross-technology to respond to future draft chapters of the guide.”

REA senior policy analyst Tricia Wiley said the minutes represented “a discussion rather than an REA view” and that the group welcomed the opportunity to take part in ministers’ consultation.

Wiley said: “We do not want to give a final verdict on the guide before we have seen more of the drafting.”  

She added: “We would like it to be more supportive and positive about EfW. There are a lot of myths surrounding the EfW sector. We see the guide as a chance to inform the debate.”

The Waste Review action plan promised the guide would be published in autumn 2011 but sources familiar with the consultation told MRW publication was unlikely “before autumn 2012” .

One consultee said he had seen just two draft chapters of the guide so far and expected a total of about six.  

A Defra spokesman said the concerns raised by at the REA meeting would be “considered” in the development of the guide, which is designed to help local councils and people interested in EfW to understand the technology, the policy and debunk myths.

He added: “The guide will provide information and answers to the common questions about energy from waste to help local councils and others interested in this area.

“We have been working with interested groups such as the REA to make this guide as useful as possible. The points that REA and other groups have made will be considered as we develop the guide.”

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) last month confirmed it would begin its study into the potential health risks of incinerators in April 2012, with preliminary results expected in March 2014 (MRW 24 Jan).

Buckinghamshire County Council this week resolved to defer a decision on an application from Waste Recycling Group for an EfW plant at Greatmoor Farm in Calvert, Buckinghamshire.

The council will wait until a report has been received from the Planning Inspector on the Buckinghamshire Minerals and Waste Core Strategy, expected in the autumn.

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