Alan Levine

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is eyeing off a $7.8 billion circular economy investment pipeline that could drive emissions from landfill down by as much as 60 per cent and create thousands of jobs in the regions.

The report, compiled with the help of global engineering services firm Arup, canvasses investment opportunities for Australia’s green bank in the recycling, organics, bioenergy and thermal energy from waste sectors.

According to the organisation, new and expanded infrastructure requirements to close the loop on key waste streams have the potential to generate between $4 billion and $7.8 billion in new investment up to 2025. 

The pipeline of work is expected to deliver 9000 construction jobs, 2600 indirect jobs and as many as 1400 direct and ongoing jobs, including in regional and rural areas.

Arup Australasian resource and waste leader Joyanne Manning said that the CEFC, which has invested in the bioenergy and waste sectors from its inception, has finance earmarked for resource recovery but has found a shortage of viable projects to invest in.

While there’s a lot of interesting developments in the resource recovery sector, to receive CEFC backing, projects must contribute meaningfully to emissions reduction. Manning said that’s why bioenergy, which diverts organic waste from landfill that otherwise rots there      and releases methane, is particularly attractive to the organisation.

As well as saving potential greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfilling organics and producing renewable energy alternatives to fossil fuels, bioenergy processes also produce by-products that can help improve agricultural land and soil health.

The report also looks at the existing policy environment for opportunities to help the industry along. Although there’s been substantial work done to modernise Australia’s waste industry and stop sending so much waste to landfill, such as the federal government’s recycling and waste reduction legislation, Manning notes more still needs to be done to help these industries thrive.

For example, Australia could follow the lead of Germany that offers incentives to inject biogas into the grid.

The bioenergy and waste sectors also occupy a complex network of feedstocks, technologies and end uses, the analysis found.

“While this complexity poses challenges for potential investors and project proponents, international experience should give investors confidence that we can capture these opportunities in the Australian context, in both metropolitan and regional areas,” CEFC waste and bioenergy Lead Mac Irvine said.

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