A Pilbara waste-to-gas plant could divert 225,000 tonnes of landfill waste a year.

11 June 2014 — The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has announced it will provide up to $50 million in finance to develop waste-to-gas facilities in Western Australia.

The facilities by West Australian company New Energy will use Australian-designed technology to generate cost competitive, baseload energy, which also have lower carbon emissions than grid electricity.

“Waste management is a complex sustainability challenge,” CEFC chief executive Oliver Yates said. “Taking waste, which is a cost, and turning it into energy, makes a lot of business sense and represents a big win for the environment.”

The move follows on from the City of Sydney’s recent announcement it would invest in waste-to-gas technology to cut waste going to landfill, and treat the gas to supply the network.

It comes at an important time, as Western Australia recently announced increases in landfill levies. From the beginning of next year, the WA landfill levy will increase from $28 a tonne to $55 a tonne for putrescible waste and from $8 a tonne to $40 a tonne for construction and demolition waste. And each financial year from 2016 to 2018 will see the levy continue to increase by $5 a tonne for putrescible waste and $10 a tonne for construction and demolition waste.

Mr Yates said the technology by New Energy was world-leading and had been widely deployed and commercially proven overseas.

“We can capitalise on our national expertise in this field and make sure it benefits our country: both directly through its application here and through the export opportunities it provides,” he said.

New Energy currently has two Australian projects in advanced stages – one at Port Hedland in the Pilbara and a second at Rockingham near Perth.

The Port Hedland project will be able to process up to 225,000 tonnes of municipal, industrial and commercial waste from the Pilbara region. It will also have a 16.6 megawatt capacity, generate 122,068 megawatt-hours of electricity a year (enough to power 21,000 homes) and save about 135,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year. The project is also estimated to create 30 full-time jobs when fully operational and about 150 jobs during construction.

The Rockingham project, south of Perth, will utilise non-recyclable waste from construction and demolition and also seek waste from nearby councils. It will have a capacity of 16.9MW, generate 133,240MWh a year and save about 215,000 tonnes in carbon emissions a year.

New Energy has licensing rights to the ENTECH low temperature gasification technology that was developed in Western Australia and has been deployed in Europe and Asia.

The CEFC said its investment would help to encourage more waste-to-energy facilities to be developed across the country and also facilitate access to private sector funding for similar projects in the future, which had the benefits of diverting waste from landfills, increasing recycling rates, recovering energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Chairman of New Energy Enzo Gullotti said waste-to-gas was the latest evolution in generating cleaner energy from waste and could help to battle Australia’s dependence on landfill, where almost half of all waste goes, compared with countries like Germany, Sweden, Belgium and Denmark, which send less than 20 per cent of their municipal waste to landfill.

“This finance from the CEFC is critical to New Energy’s success and our future development of this clean energy technology to its full potential,” Mr Gullotti said.

“It demonstrates the opportunity in Australia for these kinds of waste-to-gas projects to realise commercial success and benefits that other financiers can follow.”

The CEFC now has more than $150 million invested in waste-to-energy projects, which has also attracted $400 million in private sector investment. It has an additional $280 million of waste-to-energy proposals in its project pipeline that would unlock a further $1 billion in private finance.

The body risks being abolished when the new Senate sits in July, though The Canberra Times reported that finance minister Mathias Corman had told senate estimates the government was considering selling the CEFC’s profitable loans business, on the proviso that any privatisation maximise taxpayer value and not destabilise any private investment market in renewable energy. Mr Corman said no decision would be made until after the CEFC had been abolished.