Garbage May Be $6 Billion Opportunity for Australia Green Push

Australia’s green bank sees an investment opportunity of up to A$7.8 billion ($6.1 billion) to boost the country’s capacity in waste recycling and biomass energy over the next five years, which could reduce emissions from landfill by as much as 60%.

A report by the government-backed Clean Energy Finance Corp. found that the sector, which has been slow to gain traction in Australia, could also contribute significantly to economic growth, adding thousands of jobs in struggling regional and rural areas.

Large scale energy-from-waste facilities were seen holding the biggest potential, cutting the amount of trash going to landfill while also recovering energy. Other significant opportunities were in refuse-derived fuel facilities, and processing municipal solid waste generated by households.

A number of waste-to-energy projects are in development around the country, although the report, produced in partnership with consultancy Arup, said the environment remained challenging.

“The 2021-2025 project pipeline is constrained by the lack of policy support and inadequate valuation of flexible, renewable energy,” the report said. “Active government support to overcome these barriers could unlock significant expansions in bioenergy projects.”

The national government has refused to commit to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions target, while promoting a gas-fired economic recovery from the pandemic. Meanwhile, clean energy advocates say the lack of a strong carbon price mechanism is hampering investment in emissions-reducing technologies.

“Decades of political uncertainty over Australia’s decarbonization pathway, and a lack of specific support mechanisms, has stalled the domestic waste-to-energy industry in emerging from its infancy,” said Leonard Quong, head of Australian research at BloombergNEF. “Overcoming these policy and business model challenges is already benefiting Australia’s low carbon transition, but for the industry to scale up will require additional support and innovation.”

CEFC, which seeks to facilitate investment in Australia’s transition to lower emissions, has committed more than A$400 million in the sector for a total project value of A$1.7 billion.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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