An energy recovery project that will use discarded and non-recyclable waste materials to generate electricity is being assessed at Lithgow, NSW.

This Australian-first project would create around 300 direct and indirect jobs during peak construction and would provide a $3.7 million boost to the local economy from ongoing operations, according to a two-year study of the project’s impacts.

The findings are included in an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prepared by the proponents of the project, EnergyAustralia and Re.Group. The EIS is now on public display for community review and feedback before a final investment decision is considered later this year.

The proposed energy recovery project involves constructing a plant at the existing Mt Piper Power Station which will use discarded and non-recyclable everyday materials that would otherwise go to landfill, such as types of paper (e.g., coffee cups), plastics and fabrics, to generate electricity for 40,000 New South Wales homes.

EnergyAustralia Head of Mt Piper, Greg McIntyre, said,“In the past two years we’ve spoken to hundreds of stakeholders and done dozens of studies to understand the project’s impact on the community, economy, environment and local heritage.

“While there’s still more work to be done, we’re very pleased we found ways to manage, mitigate or avoid the impacts identified.

“What’s also encouraging is that if we are to go ahead, there are significant community benefits on offer, including the creation of jobs and an annual boost to the local economy worth several million dollars.”

Re.Group Managing Director, David Singh, said, “Re.Group is a recycling company, but some of the materials discarded by modern society simply cannot be recycled through the ‘yellow bin’ or made into compost through the ‘green bin’. This project will use systems that are internationally proven to safely recover energy from material that would otherwise go to landfill in NSW.”

According to the project’s EIS, the development would involve a capital investment of around $170 million, create 140 construction jobs and up to 300 direct and indirect roles during peak activity.

When completed in 2023, the project will support 16 new, permanent jobs and contribute at least $3.7 million to the region each year from local wages and the purchase of goods and services needed for operations and maintenance.

At full capacity, the project will process around 200,000 tonnes of household waste a year that would otherwise go to landfill and instead use it as fuel to generate 30MW of electricity. That’s enough to power the equivalent of the Lithgow and Blue Mountains local government areas combined.

Mr McIntyre thanked the community for providing support and feedback during the EIS process. The input was used to identify key community concerns and to develop measures to mitigate, or avoid entirely, impacts and to maximise benefits.

Traffic and transport, air quality, noise, ash management and visual impacts were raised during consultation. The EIS sets out measures to minimise these impacts in line with community expectations and regulatory requirements and guidelines.

Specialist consultant Environmental Resources Management Australia prepared the EIS.

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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