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 Policy Statement to support increased investment in energy from waste infrastructure and deliver regulatory certainty to industry.
In 2021, the EPA updated the Energy from Waste Policy Statement to reflect the latest advice on air emissions standards from the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer to ensure NSW has air emission standards that meet and exceed world best practice. The updated Policy Statement ensures that all NSW energy from waste facilities, wherever they operate, are subject to strict new air quality and operating standards to help protect our environment and human health.
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:
As part of the EPA’s new Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041, the NSW Government is considering further strategic planning needs for energy from waste infrastructure to ensure such projects protect the environment and human health into the future, and maximise efficiencies for waste innovation, management, and energy recovery.
The EfW Policy, WARR Act and the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 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 these types of developments to demonstrate they will be using international best practice techniques to meet strict emission standards. This includes design requirements for emission controls and monitoring to ensure stringent emission limits are met.
These matters are carefully assessed in consultation with the NSW EPA. The EPA will consider emissions predicted from a facility against the new emission standards in the EPA’s recently updated Energy from Waste Policy Statement. These new standards meet and exceed world’s best practice.
All existing and proposed energy from waste proposals are required to comply with the strict new air quality and operating standards set out in the Policy.
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.
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.
Construction and operation of a 'fit-for-purpose' Energy Recovery Plant to produce steam and electricity for the Orora Recycled Paper Mill.
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.
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.
The construction of an energy recovery boiler and storage facility and will be integrated with the existing Mt Piper Power Station electricity generating infrastructure.