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Joint report finds AU$7.8 billion in opportunities for Australian bioenergy and waste investment

The Australian waste, bioenergy, recycling, and resource recovery sector has the potential for up to AU$7.8 billion in new investment opportunities over the next five years. This investment could deliver benefits for the economy, create thousands of jobs and drive down emissions from landfills by as much as 60 percent on current forecasts, according to a joint report by global engineering and consultancy Arup and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). 

Commissioned in 2019, Melbourne’s South Eastern Organics Processing Facility is one example of waste and bioenergy investment. The mechanical and biological treatment (MBT) plant is treating household organic waste from eight Melbourne councils, substantially reducing landfill and emissions while producing 50 000 tonnes of high-grade compost annually. The CEFC committed up to AU$38 million in debt finance to the AU$65 million project in an industry-first finance model that provides councils access to a project financing structure rarely leveraged across local government. (photo courtesy CEFC).

The report “The Energising resource recovery: the Australian opportunity” investigates the potential and considerable benefits of resource recovery and bioenergy.

It has identified that the areas with the strongest investment potential were in large-scale energy-from-waste (EfW) and bioenergy facilities: these have the potential to reduce significant volumes of waste going to landfill thus reducing carbon emissions while at the same time recovering energy.

Other significant opportunities were in refuse-derived fuel (RDF) facilities, and processing specific waste types especially paper and card, glass, plastics and tyres which are all subject to the Federal Government export ban.

 The waste and bioenergy sector has shifted radically over the last five years, and this market outlook review is vital to provide evidence and confidence for future potential investment opportunities, said Joyanne Manning, Arup’s Resource and Waste Management Lead, Australasia

The Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) is a leading investor on behalf of the Australian Government in bioenergy, recycling, and energy-from-waste having committed investments of more than AU$400 million to the sector for a total project value of AU$1.7 billion.

Australia’s recycling and resource recovery sector is undergoing considerable transformation, driven by global market pressures, evolving consumer preferences and an increasing focus on reducing our carbon footprint. As an experienced investor in the bioenergy, recycling and energy-from-waste sectors, we see immediate and important investment opportunities in recycling and resource recovery, drawing on proven technologies with the potential to deliver long term economic and environmental benefits. We also recognize the critical importance of supporting the circular economy, to back the development of new industries and jobs while cutting greenhouse gas emissions and making more efficient use of finite natural resources, said Ian Learmonth, CEO of CEFC.

The report discusses the key factors influencing market developments and identifies five principles for investors and decision-makers:

  • Adopting mature and proven technologies, adapted to meet Australian markets and context;
  • Developing a robust strategy for securing suitable waste and feedstock materials and supplying recovered products or energy to market;
  • Implementing a mature commercial approach to infrastructure delivery and operation for long-term performance;
  • Clearly committing to community engagement, delivering a social license to operate, and;
  • Taking an informed approach to site selection, balancing transport and energy efficiency consideration alongside land use and community expectations.

According to Joyanne Manning, the sector could contribute significantly to Australia’s economic, employment, and emissions goals with additional social benefits.

New and expanded infrastructure requirements for waste, recycling, and bioenergy projects have the potential to generate between AU$4 billion and AU$7.8 billion in new investment in the period to 2025.

Emissions reductions are also significant, with the potential to cut emissions from landfill by as much 60 percent by substantially reducing, reusing, and recycling materials before they enter the waste stream, in line with the waste hierarchy. And importantly, increased investment will result in the provision of the necessary infrastructure required to support a circular economy. The employment benefits included the potential to create up to 9 000 construction jobs, 2 600 indirect jobs and as many as 1 400 direct and ongoing jobs, including in regional and rural areas, Joyanne Manning said.

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