Building the case: Australian Waste to Energy Forum

Next February’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum offers an opportunity to discuss how to implement a waste to energy project for a community, writes Barry Sullivan, Chairman, Australian Waste to Energy Forum.

Next year’s Australian Waste to Energy Forum is packed full of insights to address the issues that will help shape the industry into the future. Now in its third year, the Australian Waste to Energy Forum aims to provide a platform for all interested parties to discuss the development of a waste-to-energy (WtE) industry within Australia. Government, industry and individuals will be able to learn, network and discuss issues in an open forum with like-minded and interested companies and individuals.

The 2018 theme will focus on the critical element of building the case for a WtE project and WtE as a strategy. The program has been extended from two to two and a half days to allow time for all the topics that need to be covered. Our intention is to provide a platform that is more than just an opportunity for 20-minute “infomercials” from technology providers. It’s an opportunity to cover how to implement a WtE project for a community. Topics will include financing, community consultation, risk mitigation and government rules, regulations and assistance.

Risk mitigation is currently a topic that most state agencies are looking to address within their regulations. Although some are stating that a chosen technology must be commercially operating with the same feedstock and of the same size, this can limit technology selection to older technologies. Some insurance companies are starting to offer coverage that will protect the developers and the communities in which the facilities are being built. Interestingly, this appears to be to mitigate the technology risk associated with the building of new WtE facilities and their ongoing operations.

One insurance company working in the WtE space will be presenting at the conference and giving reasons for their entry into the market. The stigma of insurance companies perceiving WtE technologies as “emerging” needs to be relinquished.

It should be stated that the vast majority of “emerging” technologies have been commercially operational for well over a decade. Recently, I heard a speaker at the Waste Expo sardonically comment “what do you call a $2 billion dollar investment and 30 years of development? An emerging technology”.

A mock up of the Ballarat West Employment Zone. Supplied: The City of Ballarat

The forum will include speakers who will discuss WtE facilities of various sizes and technologies that are already operational in Australia. To complement the talks on thermal treatment, a common form of WtE, there will also be speakers who will discuss anaerobic digestion and its use in organisations. This includes farms for power generation and waste water treatment at the community level.

Throughout the event, we are emphasising that prior to choosing a technology, it is critical that applicants for WtE facilities understand the feedstock that they will be working with. What is its calorific value? That is, the amount of energy resulting from the combustion of the material. How much energy can you comfortably supply to energy market’s various sectors on an annual basis? Is the waste flow (tonnage and composition) consistent over the year or does it vary?

Once facility operators understand what waste they can process, they need to determine what output they desire. The “energy” part of WtE can be more than electricity. Energy can also be various types of transport fuels such as ethanol, diesel, hydrogen or jet fuel to mention just a few alternatives. Speakers will talk about understanding input and output options, and let’s not forget about the diversion from landfill rates WtE offers.

We are looking forward to delivering a forum that offers answers to any of the questions that might arise during a community discussion on building a WtE facility.

We hope to provide the attendees with the information that will allow them to discuss their requirements with potential technology providers from a position of having the knowledge to ask the right questions.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2018 forum in Ballarat, Victoria.

WHEN: 20 – 22 February 2018

WHERE: Mercure Ballarat, Victoria

Barry Sullivan is one of the 2018 recipients of the United Nations Corporate Social Responsibility Groups “50 Most Impactful Green Leaders (Global)”.