This weeks's news features two articles about energy-from-waste (EfW) plants — both debunk the industry's claims that EfW facilities produce "low-carbon" energy:


The first, from SourceMaterial and Josephine Moulds (with the Telegraph), is based on an in-depth investigation. Dirty white elephants is damning of the Gloucestershire Incinerator:

Secrecy and disinformation’

Amid protests and lawsuits, some authorities have resorted to questionable measures to push waste-to-energy projects through.

In Gloucestershire, a number of officials have accused the county council of undermining democracy after it spent £240,000 on lawyers’ fees to keep the terms of a divisive £500 million incinerator deal with Urbaser Balfour Beatty secret.

Council leaders claimed it would cost £100 million to cancel the project even before construction had begun, an assertion not borne out by the contract when it was eventually published on the orders of the Information Commissioner.

One councillor who opposed the incinerator reversed his position after the authority’s chief executive met him in a car park on the eve of a crucial vote and repeated the contested £100 million claim. The next day the same councillor used his casting vote to exempt the project from further review, prompting a police investigation which found no crime had been committed.

It was just a huge culture of secrecy and disinformation,” says Sarah Lunnon, then a Green Party councillor.

The incinerator is a disaster,” three dissenting council leaders said in a joint statement in July 2019. “It is expensive to run, the contract undermines attempts to reduce the amount of waste we produce and recycle, and will undermine our commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030 and tackle climate change."

A spokesperson for Gloucestershire County Council says: “The briefing of a committee chairperson by a senior officer is standard practice” and that any claims to the contrary are “false and misleading".”

The article also makes the following points:

  • Incinerator operators are claiming to generate low-carbon electricity despite having reams of data showing this is false.
  • The findings undermine this biggest justification used by the £7.5 billion industry
  • "incinerators produced almost the same carbon emissions per unit of electricity as a coal-fired power plant
  • It’s misleading” to call the electricity low-carbon, says Ann Ballinger of Eunomia, a sustainability consultancy whose clients include the government. “You are still burning a lot of plastic to get your energy in an incinerator, so that is pretty similar to burning oil.”
  • Energy-from-waste is not low-carbon,” says Piers Forster, an atmospheric physicist at University of Leeds who sits on the UK Committee on Climate Change.
  • "Using landfill for comparison is misleading because it falsely suggests dumping waste is the only alternative to burning it[...]. Landfill is not the only alternative to waste-to-energy [...]. There is potential for lower carbon options for treating residual waste, but we would always stress that increased recycling, reuse and waste prevention are much better.”
  • Air Quality Consultants for the Greater London Authority calculated that 15 deaths of London residents per year were attributable to emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from five inner London incinerators.
  • Last year, waste-to-energy incinerators breached their air pollution limits 127 times.
The second article, from the Telegraph, Energy from waste plants face scrutiny over carbon emissions is based on the research by SourceMaterial and makes the strong point that EfW plants emit carbon dioxide at a rate up to four times the grid average. You can read the full text here.



We’re pleased to tell you that on January 25th, after many hours of hard work, we submitted our response to the auditor’s draft report on the Value for Money of the Javelin Park Contract. Grant Thornton’s Provisional Views report states that they will issue a Report in the Public Interest because of failures in the procurement process, and our response calls on them to strengthen this report and their criticism of Gloucestershire County Council, and provides plenty of evidence supporting our case.


Remarkably, we learned last week that Grant Thornton gave GCC an extension AFTER we submitted our response. We discovered that GCC had requested a delay to 19th February so that they could ‘consult with their external advisors’ (presumably top lawyers Eversheds). We contacted Grant Thornton and they confirmed (two days after we’d submitted our response) that a 3-week extension had been granted. We find this pretty shocking. It is clear that GCC are going to spend vast amounts of taxpayers’ money on paying their lawyers to try and get them out of the hole they are in and to try and prevent the issuing of the Report in the Public Interest. The delay also means that, if the Council elections go ahead in May, the report could get lost in the Purdah period (the 6-week period before an election when nothing politically controversial can be dealt with), stifling debate. Local councillors and press have already been gagged by GCC officials saying that the whole matter is still confidential and subject to legal action. GCC should just come clean and admit that they were wrong, and then we could proceed to claiming back illegal state aid. Instead they continue to cover up the truth and deny the people of Gloucestershire the democratic accountability we deserve.



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