Recovering energy from waste

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by Julian Turecek, Head of Assets, EnergyAustralia

Waste-to-energy technologies are helping to reduce waste and emissions, while also supporting the integration of renewables energy sources in the sector.

Australia is making the transition to a new, modern energy system. The challenge for industry and government is making an orderly transition based on the best and cheapest mix of generation, both existing and new.

EnergyAustralia is the proud owner and operator of around 2,900MW of existing coal-fired power stations; but we struggle to make an economic case for new coal-fired technology in Australia.  

We have a neutral view about the technology that will replace existing coal as a source of base load supply, so long as it supports the delivery of reliable, affordable and cleaner energy.

We see the future modern energy system in Australia comprising of solar, wind, demand response, pumped hydro, battery storage, baseload renewables and intelligent energy management options, supported by gas-fired generation. For example:

We have permits for 1,000MW of new gas-fired capacity at Tallawarra near Wollongong, and Marulan near Goulburn, as well as additional gas generation investment opportunities
in Victoria

Our Australian-first seawater pumped hydro energy storage project proposed for South Australia is progressing through the project’s second phase of works, necessary to proceed to a final investment decision

We signed agreements worth around $50 million to operate two utility-scale battery storage systems in Victoria

We have committed to deliver around 50MW of demand response reserve capacity across New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia as part of AEMO and ARENA’s pilot program

We are progressing these options so we can have projects on the ground before 2022, on the basis that the National Energy Guarantee policy will be in place and supportive of these new investments.

Waste-to-energy in action

EnergyAustralia’s Energy Recovery Project, located at the Mt Piper Power Station in New South Wales, is another good example of the thinking and innovation that will come to underpin a new, modern energy system in Australia.

It has great potential to help solve two big challenges we face in Australia: reducing waste that goes to landfill, and integrating new supplies of renewable energy into the system.

Last year, in partnership with specialist recycling partner Re.Group, and with the assistance of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, we completed a feasibility study which found the project was technically feasible and economically viable based on consumption of 200,000 tonnes of refuse-derived fuel per year.

The project will take proven technology and practices from Europe and apply them within an existing power station in a showcase of Australian innovation. At the same, the project will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of more than 200,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, and as mentioned, will mean there’s less need to develop new landfills.

The fact that it’s integrated into an existing power station that’s already connected to the national electricity grid – avoiding having to build dedicated turbines, generators and grid connection – provides an important advantage. Another advantage is the fact the project is at an existing industrial site, minimising the issues you sometimes get with greenfield developments.

In operation, the Energy Recovery Project could generate reliable baseload electricity for an additional 40,000 homes in New South Wales without having to burn additional coal. And if viable, energy recovery will create around 300 direct and indirect jobs during construction, and 16 ongoing roles in operation.  

A final decision on the project is scheduled for 2019. If it proceeds, the Mt Piper Energy Recovery Project could make its first power in 2021. We think all the ingredients are there for a modern energy system that can deliver reliable, affordable and cleaner energy for customers. The challenge is planning; getting the right balance and mix of energy and doing it at least cost. 

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