How to get funding for your EfW project

Obtaining the funding to develop an energy from waste project is no small task. Andrew Vernau, chief financial officer at Privilege Finance, offers his thoughts on how to make the process as friction-free as possible.

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Jan 30, 2020

What’s your number one piece of advice for EfW developers?

Start out knowing your end goal. If you start with a clear vision of what you want to achieve and create plans in line with this, you’ll be well placed to gather and provide the funder with the information that’s needed.

I’d also recommend engaging with the funder early in the process to understand their exact requirements, as providing the right information at the right time will speed up the process of getting a funding decision.

Typically, funders are going to be reassured if they’re lending to developers with a long-term commitment to the project, experience of the industry or a track record of developing successful projects.

How early should developers speak to stakeholders?

It’s important to engage stakeholders in the initial planning stages of a project.

Speaking with stakeholders from the beginning can be a real benefit as it can help cement a clear vision of what the project is aiming to achieve, and for who, which can avoid issues later on.

For example, it could be beneficial to speak to the local council about how the project could boost employment or resolve landfill issues, especially if you’re looking to use commercial or domestic waste as feedstock.

Globally, food waste contributes to 8-10% of greenhouse gas emissions, so an energy from waste project which processes domestic food waste can help a council towards meeting their carbon emission reduction targets by becoming carbon neutral in this area.

Speaking to the right people to understand their issues around waste can help you to identify how your project can offer solutions that will work for all.

It’s also useful to consider who could think they would be negatively affected by the development of an energy from waste project, and engage with those stakeholders from the beginning to find mutual ground.

What’s the best way, in your opinion, to calculate and present costs?

 It’s also important to be realistic, rather than overly optimistic, in relation to technology cost, build costs, build time, expected revenue and future running costs.

This will help with being able to provide a fully costed project with the numbers to support any assumptions, which will streamline the decision-making process.

As an example, sometimes developers say they’re going to get income through gate fees when sourcing feedstock. For assumptions like this we’d want to see evidence to back it up, such as proof that sufficient feedstock is available and being sourced through a gate fee system in a similar project elsewhere.

And how important is feedstock in the early discussions?

As a funder, I’d want to see that the developer has found a feedstock provider who is going to be a long-term partner.

It’s reassuring if the project is located on a farm or close to a waste producer, as ideally at least some of the feedstock will be coming from there.

Additionally, keep in mind that the farmer or waste producer would need to be fair in their expectation that any income they’re getting from providing feedstock will be in line with what the market requires, while the developer needs to be fair on the cost and availability of this.

And if it’s a project which is using all domestic or commercial wastes, I’d want the company sourcing feedstock to have a proven track record in supplying similar quantities for a similar project elsewhere.

Any final advice?

Getting the right permits, such as an Environmental Agency (EA) permit, is another key hurdle. You as a developer would need to demonstrate that you’re in dialogue with the EA, working with them to get a permit, not assuming that the EA will do it for you.

Picking an experienced environmental consultant with a track record in achieving the permit you require is very important.

In general, careful choice of partners is crucial. Nobody is an expert at everything, so look for a proven track record in achieving exactly what you’re looking to achieve.

Remember that by processing waste materials to produce energy, an energy from waste project has the potential to offer solutions to both the climate crisis and waste management issues. This makes viable, well-thought-out projects attractive to funders, so take steps throughout the application to clearly demonstrate that risks are being considered and mitigated for and that you’re working with carefully chosen, experienced partners.

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