As the UK economy is spluttering through the depths of a double dip recession, new leadership in the form of Shaun Kingsbury as the chief executive of the Green Investment Bank (GIB) must be seen as a good sign that at last, nearly half way through its mandate, the coalition government is starting to make good on its promise to invest directly in infrastructure. The GIB has named the waste and recycling sectors as priority areas for funding.
Shaun Kingsbury’s track record in private equity is testament to his understanding of the sound economics of renewable energy investment. Doubtless he will be a great facilitator to lend on projects once they are at the ready-to-build stage.
What is still needed, however, is a dynamic champion to progress a cohesive strategy and allow the myriad of infrastructure projects mired at the planning or pre-planning stage to actually get off the ground.
Waste all too often falls between four departments – DEFRA, DECC, DCLG and DBIS – meaning nobody treats it as a priority industry for national energy delivery and economic growth.
We have in the GIB and its new CEO the equivalent of a strongly-financed, well-led kit supplier for an Olympic Games but without a Sebastian Coe figure to actually win the Waste Infrastructure Games for Britain – let alone a deadline and detailed map on how to build and deliver them.
There urgently needs to be a sea change in attitude from treating waste as a throw-away by-product of consumption to understanding that it offers a valuable resource as a local form of energy supply and repository of materials with a re-usable economic value. We believe 29 million tonnes of refuse each year goes to waste which contains an active value – potential energy or resources that can be extracted and go back into the economy.
Industry, SITA UK included, is prepared to invest in the £20bn to £25bn of infrastructure investment needed to turn that waste into opportunity, to plug an energy gap and provide more than 80,000 jobs. We are ready to invest. We have a good facilitator for financing in the form of GIB. But who will rise to the challenge and champion Team GB?