“Growth” is not just today’s buzzword – it’s going to be topical for years to come. The UK simply needs more investment and more jobs. Simultaneously, the delivery of new waste management infrastructure is a ‘strategic priority’ and a critical one for UK Plc.
Clearly there is a potential here for a “win-win”. Waste is no longer just a by-product of much-needed economic growth; it can be a catalyst for it.
To be central to the new green economy, waste and energy from waste needs more positive attention in Government and media circles. To deliver our potential we also need to deliver our message and achieve the same welcome as other inward investors e.g. car manufacturers.
As a major player in the growing green economy, Veolia has invested over £1.2 billion in capital investment projects since we entered the UK market in 1990.
According to the UK Construction Group, the construction sector provides over 28 jobs per £1 million invested. Every £1 invested in construction results in £2.84 in total economic activity.
So in terms of the green employment agenda, we’ve contributed 34,000 jobs and £3.4 billion in economic activity. Another £1 billion of investment is planned by 2018 - that’s 28,000 jobs and over £2.8 billion in economic benefit.
As part of this nationwide capital investment programme we already operate seven energy recovery facilities, with two under construction and two in the planning process.
These facilities bring real jobs to local areas –360 in construction and 50/60 permanently, not counting dependent created jobs locally. From unwelcome neighbour, once construction starts the language changes – we become an employer, investor, even visitor attraction.
In Shropshire, previous opponents are now looking to maximise new business and employment to local companies from the building of our Battlefield ERF. In Newhaven our facility is now seen as capable of attracting further inward investment in the port area.
So how do we change public opinion? From the outset there needs to better communication of the environmental, economic and financial benefits these projects bring as opposed to just treating the waste.
By being more open more quickly there is no information vacuum into which misinformation can pour. If people know what the plant will look like and we tackle the traffic, noise odour and emissions issues effectively, the benefits of the investment can still be heard.
Energy from waste is a safe, low carbon, partly renewable and secure source of energy which provides vital price stability. It could contribute 3% of our total electricity demand – 10% of our renewable electricity supplies.
In the form of CHP, it is more efficient, more acceptable to the public and provides a boost to local economic regeneration. Government could assist here by reframing the Renewable Heat Incentive to pay for the pipes. A more streamlined planning system would help too.
As an industry we are contributing to the green economy, boosting energy security, plugging the energy gap and creating jobs. With a little Government support and a more balanced media review we could do a lot more for UK Plc.