Scotland facing capacity gap despite new EfW plants

While this month saw another energy-from-waste plant become operational in Scotland the country still faces a shortfall in capacity due to poor policy planning, according to a market expert.

The Millerhill EfW plant, operated by FCC near Edinburgh, this month joined Viridor’s Glasgow-based facility in adding a combined total of 455,000 tonnes of new capacity this year.  Several other facilities such as the Westfield Energy Recovery plant, East Tullos facility in Aberdeen and the replacement Dundee EfW plant have all moved ahead, with the latter two reaching the construction phase.

EfW market expert and Tolvik Consulting director, Adrian Judge, told ENDS that even if these plants were completed on schedule “there will still be a shortfall” in capacity when Scotland’s 2021 ban on landfilling municipal biodegradable waste comes into force.

Judge said he did not “fundamentally disagree” with a report prepared by consultancy Eunomia for the Scottish government, released on 23 April, which also warned of a looming capacity gap.

Judge said: “How has Scotland got into this position? By making a policy announcement and hoping the market would react to it. No funding has been put in place for encouraging infrastructure and most importantly the Scottish market is a fragmented market, which is the single biggest challenge.

“Those local authorities that are the biggest, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh, can sign deals to build EfW plants, but smaller authorities can’t do that. My sense is that the market will not deliver the capacities needed anytime soon, so the Scottish government will need an outbreak of pragmatism.”

According to Judge, rather than “falling off a cliff edge” in 2021 Scotland’s policymakers need to plan a “more gradual descent”. Judge suggests one option might be to follow Ireland’s lead where landfill permits included tonnage limits which progressively reduced in time.

Judge further explained Scotland could also increase its landfill tax so it was “much higher” than in England, which would potentially make investments in alternatives more viable.

Another option, according to Judge, would be to exempt local authorities from the 2021 ban if they had a plan in place and could demonstrate how they would respond in time to the ban.