Every two months Dr Adam Read, External Affairs Director @ Suez UK and current President of the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management discusses the big issues from his point of view, and this time he will look at the big consultations that might reshape the energy from waste sector and what this might mean in terms of new recruits and new skills on our sites ….
Emissions Trading, Decarbonisation and the Green Skills Agenda ….
So much has happened since I last posted, with major consultations on CCUS, Single Use Plastics, Waste Licensing and Digital Waste Tracking all now closed. But that doesn’t mean we can kick back and relax post Easter, absolutely not! We are now well into another phase of consultations, including ones on our new Environmental Targets, the Nature Recovery Green Paper, HWRC booking systems, Packaging Recovery Notes, and of course the reforms of the Emissions Trading Scheme.
But if that’s tying some of you to your desk, we have the pull of more face to face events, conferences, working group meetings and a host of MP and civil servant site visits to accommodate, meaning more time away from the desk and back in transit. If you are going to be at events in the next few weeks, then fully embrace them, don’t keep disappearing off to take a teams meeting or a zoom call, you will miss out on the best bits about these events the chats over coffee, the whispers in the corridors, and the business chat when waiting in line for lunch etc.
I’m not sure if it can all be done, and with 10 live consultations before the end of June, I’m expecting a few late nights, after all you can’t ignore the proposed policy reforms and complain later when you don’t like the changing system / charges / targets etc. So good luck, whatever you have on your agenda these next 2 months…….
The policy bandwagon keeps on giving!
The one major policy area I want to draw your attention to is the live consultation from The UK ETS Authority made up of the UK Government, Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive who jointly run the UK Emissions Trading Scheme seeking input on a number of proposals to develop the ETS, to learn lessons from the recent years of operation, and to make the system more effective.
As part of chapter 7, the Authority has released a call for evidence seeking early views on expanding the UK ETS to include waste incineration and energy from waste (pg. 113), focusing on the timing of inclusion, the point of obligation, monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) requirements, wider distributional and market impacts, and interactions with planned and existing policies.
The consultation currently proposes the inclusion of waste incineration and EfW by the mid-late 2020s to align with wider waste reforms. For EfW, this would mean conventional incineration and ATT/ACT (pyrolysis/gasification) would fall under the scope of the UK ETS and pay a carbon price according to their greenhouse gas emissions (~£35/tonne). Further consideration will also be required as to whether ETS obligations will only apply to incinerators operating above the 20MWth threshold, in line with current and future UK ETS rules. It suggests the UK ETS should cover the incineration of fossil material by all waste incinerators, which would require an obligation for robust MRV requirements to be placed on all operators.
Any response needs to be submitted by the 17th June 2022, and I would advise you to discuss the implications with your operational colleagues and to engage with your professional and trade bodies to help craft a suitable response. But, if you haven’t seen it then go and download it now as it really is critical for those of you interested in energy from waste facilities - https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/developing-the-uk-emissions-trading-scheme-uk-ets
Are we asking the right questions?
It seems to me that Government are asking the wrong question. Surely, the question should be how can carbon taxation and ETS support and drive a more circular economy, one where resource productivity is higher and waste leakage (and thus carbon emissions) is lower? Is taxing one part of the waste management system really going to deliver the type of change needed or wanted? Landfill tax worked in driving organic materials out of landfill, but only when the pricing point was right and although recycling increased, it was energy recovery that picked up the heavy lifting.
Will taxing EfW which is a large carbon emitter (assuming CCS isn’t fully deployed in the short term) drive up recycling and enable waste prevention, or will it simply force some materials back into landfill (now comparably cheaper) or make treatment more expensive for our customers who will be footing the bill? If you really want to make reuse, repair and refill models the norm then the carbon tax benefits of not using virgin materials must be recognised, and you can only do this if the entire system is within ETS, not just the energy recovery facilities. If you like this way of thinking then watch out for a future SUEZ webinar (https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/5077105315088578828), where we will be debating this in detail, and perhaps think about including some commentary along these lines in your own response?
Green Skills Anyone?
But with so much attention already on carbon capture and storage (CCS) and now on carbon taxation of our energy from waste facilities, are we planning ahead sufficiently, will we be ready in the next 5 years to roll-out the thousands of engineers, technologists, environmental monitors, data-analysts and site managers (to name but a few roles) that we will need to meet the decarbonisation agenda in our sector?
But the transition is much bigger than just our energy (and heat) recovery portfolio. The resources and waste sector currently employs 150,000 people, whilst a more circular economy will need almost 500,000 specialists, trained and operational by 2030. If each home put out 2 items for repair every year we would need a newly trained workforce of 40,000 specialists worth £1.4 billion annually – the scale of the opportunity here is massive!
Thankfully, there is ongoing dialogue with both BEIS, DEFRA and the Department for Education about the skills roadmap our sector and other sectors that are having to ‘go green’ will need, creating new career profiles and competency maps so we can plan better for the GCSEs, A-levels, apprenticeships and degree courses we will need to deliver these core skills. But before any of that can work that we need to attract new students into our areas of employment, and that means making our sites and technologies ‘cool’ for todays Year 5 (10 year olds), because if they don’t see these as being careers of the future then the right courses and qualifications just wont have the take up we need as we push to go Net Zero by 2040.
Get on board….
So if you aren’t responding to the ETS consultation (why not?), or if you have some time between now and the end of June, think about how you could inspire and engage todays 10 year olds – reach out to local schools, get your staff involved in STEM programmes and look up any number of the other great initiatives that are live and are trying to capture the interest of our future sector leaders like 4ward Futures and the Careers & Enterprise Company to name but two.
This year CIWM will be developing a number of green career pathways and exemplars to help with the schools agenda, and other professional bodies like ICE, IMechE, IEMA, IOM3 etc. also have their own plans underway. So reach out and support them, we really do need to push hard on both the policy front and the recruitment agenda now as time is against us!
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As with all my ‘blogs’ they are mine and mine alone. If you would like to get in touch or comment on them then please do so, as I am more than open to some good ‘old-fashioned’ debate and dialogue. Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me social media.
Adam is External Affairs Director at SUEZ Recycling & Recovery UK Ltd, working with DEFRA and other key industry stakeholders on the rapidly evolving policy landscape in the UK, and representing the company on numerous technical working groups and with the media. He is also President of the CIWM and a member of their Trustee Board, and Chair of the ESA’s Policy and Resource Strategy Working Group. He has over 25 years of waste & resource sector experience spanning academia, local government, consultancy and for the last 5 years in the private sector with SUEZ. He is also a Fellow of the RSA, RGS, CIWM and IOM3, and is passionate about #sustainability #greenskills and #mentoring.
Dr Adam Read, External Affairs Director @ SUEZ & CIWM President