In NSW, government policy encourages the recovery of energy from waste if this can deliver positive outcomes for people and the environment.
Energy from waste is an emerging technology in Australia and involves the thermal treatment of waste or waste-derived materials for the recovery of energy.
Using waste as fuel to produce energy can:
The department is currently assessing several State significant energy from waste proposals located in NSW.
Energy recovery from waste proposals must represent the most efficient use of the resource and demonstrate they are using international best practice techniques to ensure air quality and human health are protected.
Our comprehensive merit-based assessment process takes in to account consultation with key stakeholders, including the community, councils and State government agencies. The department works closely with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health in its assessment to ensure the issues of air quality and human health are thoroughly assessed.
Our collaborative approach allows the department to consider quantifiable facts and assessment data, having regard to the specific circumstances and location of the development and its potential impacts.
Due to the complex nature of the emerging technology, we also engage independent experts in energy from waste technology and human health risk with experience in assessing these types of proposals both in Australia and in Europe, to assist with our assessments and provide advice on international best practice.
As part of any application to the Department, applicants must address the potential impacts of all stages of the development, including any cumulative impacts of the proposed facility with other developments. Potential cumulative impacts form a key consideration of our assessment and will be considered in consultation with the EPA and our independent experts.
In 2015, the NSW EPA released the Energy from Waste (EfW) Policy Statement to support increased investment in energy from waste infrastructure and deliver regulatory certainty to industry.
The EfW Policy sets out a framework for the operation of new purpose-built facilities and other existing facilities and is the primary policy in NSW that governs our assessment of energy from waste proposals. The Policy and EPA’s licensing framework ensure any facility is benchmarked and assessed against international best practice.
The Policy underpins the key objectives of NSW’s waste legislation and is a key consideration in our assessment, being:
The EfW Policy, WARR Act and the NSW Waste and Resource Recovery Strategy 2014-21 (WARR Strategy 2014-21) are underpinned by the waste hierarchy, which provides guidance on the order of preference for a range of waste management approaches to achieve efficient resource use.
The recovery of energy is considered a less preferred approach in the waste hierarchy to higher order outcomes of avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle.
An Energy from Waste Facility uses thermal technology to convert residual waste that would otherwise go to landfill into steam which drives turbines to generate electricity.
Residual waste is the waste left over after all recyclable or re-usable material has been removed following a bona-fide resource recovery process or source separation collection system. Residual waste is the waste that is sent to landfill.
A ‘reference facility’ is a fully operational plant using the same technologies and treating like waste streams in another similar jurisdiction.
The reference facility requirement is a key aspect of the EfW Policy as it provides confidence in the performance of the facility and demonstrates the proposed emissions limits can be met. This ensures the protection of air quality and human health.
Energy from waste technology using residual waste as a fuel is new to New South Wales.
In Western Australia, four large-scale energy from waste facilities proposing to use residual waste as a fuel have been approved. To date, none have commenced operation.
The largest, the Kwinana Waste to Energy Project, is currently under construction and will have the capacity to process up to 400,000 tonnes per year of residual municipal solid waste.
In Victoria, approval has been granted for a large-scale energy from waste facility with a capacity to process up to 650,000 tonnes per year of residual waste at the Australian Paper Mill site in Maryland. The proposal is a partnership between Australian Paper and SUEZ.
Waste to energy is a proven technology used globally to generate energy from the thermal treatment of waste. There are over 2,000 energy from waste plants operating globally, with around 80 facilities operating in the United States, over 1,000 in Japan (21 in Tokyo alone) and over 400 facilities throughout Europe. In Paris alone, there are three energy from waste plants with treatment capacities ranging from 460,000 to 700,000 tonnes per year of residual household waste.
If a proposal meets the relevant thresholds for capital investment and thermal processing capacity specified in Schedule 1 of State Environmental Planning Policy (State and Regional Development) 2011, it is State significant development (SSD).
SSD applications are assessed by the department.
The department is responsible for undertaking a thorough merit-based assessment of the proposal in line with the requirements set out in section 4.15 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).
This merit-based approach will allow a decision to be made with regard to the specific circumstances and location of the development, based on quantifiable facts and assessment data.
As part of this process, the department consults with key stakeholders, including the community, councils, independent expert consultants and State government agencies. In particular, the department works closely with the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and NSW Health in its assessment of the application to ensure the issues of air quality and human health are thoroughly assessed.
Community input is a vital part of the assessment process and all submissions received will be considered by the applicant and the Department.
The department’s assessment of the proposal will consider the objects of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act) and the matters to be considered by a consent authority listed in Section 4.15 of the EP&A Act.
The assessment will involve consideration of:
As part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared in support of an SSD application, an applicant must provide an assessment of the potential impacts of all stages of the development, including any cumulative impacts of the proposed facility with any approved (but not yet constructed) developments and any other proposed energy from waste proposals.
This includes any other planned energy from waste proposals and will involve an assessment of the cumulative impacts associated with air quality, human health, odour, traffic, noise, social and visual amenity.
When a development application is received, it is subject to a thorough merit assessment process by the department. Our process also includes an assessment of the cumulative impacts associated with the proposal. The assessment will include consultation with the community and other key stakeholders, including the EPA, NSW Health and the relevant local council.
As part of the Planning Secretary’s Environmental Assessment Requirements, the department requires applicants to complete community consultation activities before the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is lodged.
As a minimum, the applicant is required to prepare a detailed community and stakeholder participation strategy in the EIS which identifies who in the community has been consulted and a justification for their selection, other stakeholders consulted and the form(s) of the consultation, including justification for the approach.
When an SSD application and EIS is lodged, the department will place the EIS on public exhibition for a minimum of 28 days. The community, key stakeholders and government authorities will be invited to make a submission on the proposal during the public exhibition period. As part of its assessment of the application the department will consider all issues raised in submissions.
The NSW EfW Policy requires energy from waste facilities to demonstrate they will be using current international best practice techniques to meet strict emission standards.
The Policy provides a framework and technical criteria for applications to address, including the requirement for proposals to meet current international best practice technology. This includes design requirements for emission controls and monitoring to ensure stringent emission limits are met.
Any proposal must meet the technical criteria specified in the Policy.
These matters are carefully assessed in consultation with the NSW EPA. The EPA will consider emissions predicted from a facility against the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 and the European requirements under the Industrial Emissions Directive.
As part of this consideration, the EPA’s licensing framework allows it to set more stringent limits than required by the Clean Air Regulation to ensure any energy recovery facility meets best practice emission standards.
There is no moratorium on these types of projects. A moratorium would be incompatible with NSW’s planning framework which assesses development proposals on their merits. The EfW Policy aims to ensure these proposals have minimal risk of harm to human health and the environment.
The NSW planning system is rigorous and robust and provides opportunities for the community and other stakeholders to raise their views for consideration. An example of the rigorous nature of the planning system was the recent decision to refuse a previous application by The Next Generation for an energy from waste facility at Eastern Creek.
To find out more information and view EfW proposals you can visit our Major Projects website by clicking on the tiles below.
For each project we encourage you to sign-up for project alerts at the Major Projects website to stay informed about the latest developments.
Agriwaste Energy from Waste Facility
Construction and operation of a 100 megawatt agricultural waste to energy facility for the thermal treatment of up to 350,000 tonnes per annum of agricultural waste.Find out more
Botany Cogeneration Plant
Construction and operation of a 'fit-for-purpose' Energy Recovery Plant to produce steam and electricity for the Orora Recycled Paper Mill.Read about the project
Cleanaway's Western Sydney Energy & Resource Recovery Centre
The purpose of the proposal is to build an energy-from-waste facility that can generate up to 45 megawatts of power by thermally treating up to 500,000 tonnes per year of residual municipal solid waste and residual commercial and industrial waste.Read more
Eastern Creek Energy from Waste
A new proposal for the construction and operation of an energy from waste facility with an engineered capacity to treat up to 329,400 tonnes of residual waste.Read about the project
Mount Piper Energy Recovery Project
The construction of an energy recovery boiler and storage facility and will be integrated with the existing Mt Piper Power Station electricity generating infrastructure.Find out more