Energy-from-waste firms ‘deserve more incentives’

MORE should be done to allow businesses specialising in creating energy from waste to contribute to meeting Scotland’s low-carbon targets, according to a European legal expert on the sector.

Vincent Brown is to tell industry leaders, and particularly politicians, attending the Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference next month that not enough is being done to stimulate investment in energy-from-waste infrastructure.

Mr Brown, a partner at Semple Fraser and visiting professor in environmental law at university of Strathclyde Law School, is a speaker at the event in Edinburgh on September 27-28.

He believes more can be done to help firms operating in the field in terms of planning regimes and wider market uncertainty. “We feel that in certain respects not enough has been done to explore the potential for energy from waste to contribute to renewables targets,” he said.

“Waste is a problem – if you can take that problem and turn it into a solution, by taking a waste that would be burned or landfilled and make a new energy product from it, that’s renewable energy as far as I am concerned.”

Mr Brown stressed he was not discussing the incineration of harmful waste with careless disregard for human health and the environment.

“There is much more to it than that. It covers a very wide spectrum, but generally it involves taking a waste and doing something intelligent with it.

“It is possible to combust waste to produce heat and electricity, or to digest it to produce a biogas that can be injected into the gas grid for use in people’s homes. It is even possible to transform the waste so that it is not waste any more. The ‘fuel’ produced is just that – a fuel, not a waste.

“The processing is so good, that the material ceases to be waste. It has left the waste chain. For me, this latter area receives insufficient recognition or incentivisation.”

Many businesses involved in this type of activity are re-branding themselves as resource and energy service companies, not waste companies. This is justifiable in most cases, according to Mr Brown.