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Vic Government 'welcomes investments in EfW'

The Victorian Government has opened the door for new Energy from Waste (EfW) facilities in the State. 

Published in September 2013, the draft Energy from Waste guidelines give a description for the first time of what conditions the Victorian EPA will approve energy recovery facilities. The publication of the guidelines follow the April 2013 release of the Victorian Governments's new resource recovery strategy, Getting Full Value, which also endorsed the creation of Victoria's first energy recovery facilities.    

The new Victorian policy is a close analogue to the NSW Draft Energy from Waste Guidelines released for public comment in January 2013. Much of the material in the NSW policy is also drawn from best practise guidelines developed in Europe.

Like the recent NSW guidelines, the Victorian policy outlines two critical elements from any new waste to energy facilities. Firstly, these plants must be energy recovery facilities rather than waste disposal options, meaning they must produce more energy than they consume. Secondly, energy recovery "should not compete with avoidance, reuse or recycling".

Energy recover facilities typically have lower land and greenhouse footprints than landfills.

Conditions for Approval
Regarding the approval of new plants, the Victorian EPA said four key criteria would be used in the assessment;

1) Is EfW a suitable option?

2) Waste acceptance and preparation for energy recovery

3) Siting, design, construction and operation of EfW facilities

4) Thermal performance (facilities must achieve a thermal efficiency of 65%, or demonstrate why they can't)

Like those in NSW, the Victorian guidelines specify how any material considered for energy recovery much undergo a resource recovery process first. Specifically, it says "EfW should be considered for ‘residual waste’ and other wastes for which energy recovery represents the most feasible option, due to the absence of a market for the waste."

"‘Residual waste’ is the waste that is left over after suitable materials have been recovered for reuse and recycling. This generally means the environmental or economic costs of further separating and cleaning the waste are greater than any potential benefit of doing so."

The document cautions about relying on a single material source, "EfW proponents should not rely on a single residual waste supply over the longer term because doing so may undermine future recovery options."

Facilities should be able to provide evidence of how they minimise and manage emissions (including pollutants, odour, dust, litter, noise and residual waste) in accordance with relevant statutory requirements. Finally, the proposed technologies must be proven, well understood and robust.

Air Emissions
Like the NSW Energy from Waste policy, the Victorian draws from European Emissions Standards for any potential WtE facilities.

Emission discharges, under both steady and non-steady state operating conditions, must meet all the emissions standards set in the European Union’s Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75/EU (IED).

Finally, the combustion of reuse-derived fuel (RDF) as fuel replacement in an existing facility should have similar or reduced emissions to atmosphere in comparison to the emissions from the standard fuel it replaces, with appropriate risk controls in place.

EfW excludes biofuels
Given the great diversity of biomass reuse happening across the Victorian economy, the policy makes a specific exemption for energy recovery from biomass. "Some waste streams are recognised to pose limited risks to the environment and human health and can be used directly as biofuels in purpose built boilers or as fuel replacement in existing facilities," the policy says.

Exemptions are granted for: 1) biomass from agriculture, 2) residues from forestry plantation and sawmilling operations 3) untreated wood waste, 4) recycled oil that meets the specifications and standards set out in the Product Stewardship (Oil) Regulations 2000 and 5) vegetable residue from virgin pulp production and from production of paper from pulp

To be considered as biofuel, these wastes must have a minimum gross calorific value of 10MJ/kg as received, be fully characterised, uncontaminated and relatively homogeneous.