Consented waste plants face growing struggle for finance
Investor uncertainty is holding back a significant number of waste treatment facilities from coming on-stream, new research has revealed.
The UK is sitting on 21.3m tonnes of residual waste processing capacity that has received planning consent, but not yet commenced construction, according to the fourth issue of Eunomia’s Residual Waste Infrastructure Review, out today.
In the six months since the last version of the Review was published, 2.7m tonnes of capacity has been consented, while only 1m tonnes of capacity has moved into the construction phase.
Meanwhile a further 1m tonnes has exited the planning process without obtaining consent, having been either withdrawn or refused.
The past six months have seen Defra withdrawing PFI credits from three major local authority projects that were viewed as unnecessary to meet UK landfill diversion targets, while energy-from-waste (EfW) developer Covanta has decided to withdraw from the UK market.
The difficulty of raising finance appears to be having an impact on the number of projects being initiated.
Only 0.6m tonnes of new capacity entered the planning system in the past six months, resulting in a net reduction of 3.1m tonnes in the amount of capacity seeking planning permission.
Eunomia now believes it unlikely that all consented waste facilities awaiting finance will see completion – it argues that even if the 21.3m tonnes of treatment capacity were to come on-stream today, it would exceed the available residual waste by 12m tonnes.
The Review further highlights that some regions are already close to overcapacity, with the West Midlands and North East appearing likely to have more treatment capacity than residual waste in 2014.
According to lead author of the report, Eunomia’s principal consultant Adam Baddeley, the development pipeline for residual waste treatment is becoming increasingly complex.
“The picture is changing … with a lack of long-term bankable feedstock contracts to meet tight lending criteria, along with strong competition from incinerators on the continent, the prospects for reaching financial close on pure merchant plant have worsened,” he said.
“The risk of overcapacity remains, in some regions more strongly than others. But at a national level, these influences suggest that we may not reach full capacity until around 2017-18.”
The data draws upon Eunomia’s in-house research, which is updated on an on-going basis. The company says its databases hold information on every residual treatment facility in the country, including those in the planning system.