Waste-to-power plant proponents deny using renewable energy target to spruike project

Katie Burgess

  • Katie Burgess

During an ACT parliamentary hearing, Mr Rattenbury referred to an Inner South Canberra Community Council in August, where Capital Recycling Solutions and ActewAGL spoke about their plans to burn rubbish for electricity at a new plant in Fyshwick.

Mr Rattenbury accused the proponents of wrongly linking the ACT’s renewable energy target to their project.

“The ACT will have 100 per cent of its power from renewable energy sources by 2020. At the moment we don’t have the need for any further energy supply, we have adequate energy to meet that goal in 2020 so there’s no need for the ACT to seek to purchase any more power,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“I actually went to the public meeting and the proponent said this will help the ACT to meet its renewable energy target and he was wrong because have adequate contracts to meet our renewable energy target.”

 However recordings made by Fairfax Media at the meeting dispute Mr Rattenbury’s account.

Capital Recycling Solutions director Adam Perry on Tuesday told Fairfax Media“It’s not something we would say and it’s certainly not our position.”

“We don’t want to get involved in the whole electricity energy security debate. We’re not AGL,” Mr Perry said.

Mr Perry did tell the meeting the ACT government’s own advisors recognised waste-to-energy would result in a net reduction in carbon emissions, because it replaced coal-fired power and methane from landfill.

The ACT has a target of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

ActewAGL chief financial officer Steve Skourakis also told the meeting he hoped they would be able to access the ACT government’s feed-in tariff with the plant.

A leaflet handed out by the proponents also said the project could provide baseload renewable power for more than 28,000 ACT homes.

It is understood that is what Mr Rattenbury has based his accusation on.

Asked to provide clarification, Mr Rattenbury said there were no plans to award new feed-in-tariff entitlements at this stage and he “would question the notion” that a waste-to-power plant was renewable.

Capital Recycling Solutions last month announced it had halved the capacity of its proposed plant and delay its development in response to concerns from the community.

But the ACT Greens have dug their heels in to oppose the project, releasing a new waste management strategy that steered clear of thermal plants in the days after their announcement.

“Burning waste is no better than burning dirty fossil fuels and will not support the ACT’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality,” the policy document said.

Greens MLA Caroline Le Couteur grilled Environmental Protection Agency Commissioner Greg Jones on whether he would oppose the project during the annual reports hearings.

Any development application will have to be referred to the EPA for comment before it was passed, but Mr Jones said their largest influence would be though the environmental authorisation.

“We would have very detailed requirements in an environmental authorisation about what sort of emissions were permissible and how those emissions would be identified and reported on to the EPA,” Mr Jones said.

“We wouldn’t necessarily do those inspections but we would require for example an expert auditor to report at the proponent’s expense to report to the EPA on a quarterly basis to prove they were meeting all of their stated emission targets.”

Mr Jones said if their conditions made the plant non-viable “so be it”.

Mr Perry said the Greens should ask themselves whether it was better to landfill the ACT’s rubbish at Mugga Lane or use it for electricity.

“Is it better to clear trees on the side of the hill to bury rubbish, which catches fire every now and again and leaks leachate into the water table?” Mr Perry said.

“With the greatest respect, everyone – including Shane Rattenbury – still puts their rubbish bin out by the curbside every week. It’s not a problem that’s going away.”