Waste-to-Energy better than landfill


Image from waliberal.org.au

WA shadow environment minister Steven Thomas

Malcolm Coleman, Reporter

Last week WA Premier Mark McGowan announced that his government had given the go-ahead for the construction of a waste-to-energy recycling facility in Kwinana, to be completed by 2021.

McGowan’s announcement was met with cynicism from the Shadow Minister for Emergency Services; Environment, Dr Steven Thomas, who accused the Labor government of changing its tune, having not supported the idea earlier.

He said: “I think Premier McGowan has done a backflip on this one and it is not the first time as he is getting quite good at it.  Ideologically, he hasn’t liked this idea at all up until this point, except for where there is a photograph in a hard hat and a shovel to be had.”

In terms of the substance of the announcement though, he was supportive and said: “I think that waste to energy will play a critical role in the world’s future, so I think we should embrace it.”

A media statement released by the Premier’s office claims that this will be Australia’s first thermal waste to energy facility. The project will involve the creation of 800 short term jobs during construction, together with 60 positions to be filled once the facility is operational. The facility will divert 400,000 tonnes of residual waste from landfill each year to be converted into energy.

Dr Thomas served up another scoop of cynicism though, adding that that the 800 short term jobs involved in the construction are being created down towards the Premier’s electorate (Rockingham) and that they might therefore boost the Premier’s vote count in the 2021 state election. Dr Thomas said: “It’s simply political opportunism to jump ship midstream.”

The new facility will thermally treat the waste and convert the recovered energy into steam to produce electricity. The facility will produce fewer greenhouse emissions than if the residual waste went to landfill.

In responding to the Premier’s announcement Dr Thomas gave praise to his Liberal colleague the Federal Minister for the Environment Melissa Price who announced that the Federal Government would contribute between $23 million and $90 million toward the project.

Dr Thomas said: “If it’s a waste stream that is getting used versus buried, then I am absolutely in favour of it. I think it’s a significant contribution and it’s a bit new in what they are trying to achieve. I welcome the Federal Government’s contribution and think this is good and timely.”

The shadow minister was so keen on the concept that he suggested that ultimately WA could support a number of these plants, possibly involving smaller units.

The Kwinana plant will generate an expected 36 Megawatts of electricity that will be exported into the South-West interconnected system, powering more than 50,000 homes. The Project was co-developed by Macquarie Capital and the Dutch infrastructure Fund.