The UK government must set a target to generate at least 6% of its electricity by recovering energy from waste by 2015, waste management giant Viridor chief executive Colin Drummond said this week.
He added that reform of the UKs planning system was also vital to help kick-start investment in technologies such as landfill gas capture, anaerobic digestion and particularly for energy from waste plants and so unlock this low cost, low carbon form of electricity generation.
I would invest £1 billion tomorrow on four new plants, he said, highlighting the huge difficulties faced when planning new schemes. I call on government to set a target of 6% by 2015 and take action to speed up planning.
Drummond was speaking at a lunch organised by recruitment specialist Odgers Infrastructure Practice. The event was attended by senior construction and waste industry executives.
He said that currently just 1.5% of the UKs electricity was generated from waste. This could easily be 6% by 2015 and possibly as high as 20% by 2020 according to studies by the Institutions of Mechanical Engineers and of Civil Engineers.
He pointed out that energy recovered from waste is typically low cost as the energy is a by-product of a required waste treatment process and is distributed round the grid near where the waste is generated and where energy is required. He added that it also provides vital base load power.
Viridor was told last week that its appeal would be heard on 6 July against Oxfordshire County Council's Planning and Regulation Committee's decision to refuse planning permission for an energy-from-waste facility at its site in Ardley. The inquiry is expected to last up to 10 days.
Viridor says the plant would divert 300,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill and generate up to 24MW of electricity.
Drummond said that one of the main planning objections to energy from waste was still the fear of adverse health effects by potential neighbours.
However, he pointed out that the government's own research shows there are no adverse health effects from modern energy from waste plants.
He also said there was no risk to the recycling market since there were solid commercial reasons for only burning material that was unrecyclable.
It is now all about recovering value from waste, he said. Europe has been quicker off the mark but the UK is not the dirty man of Europe.