September blog: It's good to talk! Getting the most from conference season...

Every couple of months I discuss the big sector issues from my point of view, and this time I will look at the busy conference season that is just around the corner and what that might mean for policy reforms and best practice….
September blog: It's good to talk! Getting the most from conference season...
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Its good to talk! Getting the most from the conference season …..

It’s been quite a while since my last post, and although I will have seen many of you at the big EfW Conference back in March 2023, much has happened in that time on the policy front, on new sites, new investment, new contracts and new technologies, it seems a little daunting where to start this blog. But with all that change, comes uncertainty, opportunity and a thirst for knowledge, insight and data. So this blog is all about the post summer back to work conference season that kicks of this September – will you be joining me?

Policy delays, but business continues…

Many of us operating in the energy from waste sector will have been fixated on the planned policy reforms from DEFRA on extended producer responsibility and consistent collections which will have transformed our feedstocks over a 7-year period. Government delays in England and increasing political tension in Scotland have taken the wind from the sails of this transformation, but the direction of travel remains obvious, so we can’t stop planning for a reduction in organics and plastics coming to our sites and the impact this will have on calorific value, thermal efficiency, and emissions. And just how we transition and adapt will be key for the viability of so many projects going forward.

Others in the sector will have been even more focused on the policy reforms coming from DESNZ (a new name to contend with) around inclusion of EfW in the Emissions Trading Scheme (a carbon tax for our sites) and the next stage of funding for Carbon Capture and Storage projects and clusters. Ultimately, these will impact the cost profile of our sites, involve some expensive cost re-allocation to our customers (have we prepared them?) and for some of our sites at least, a pathway to carbon positive emissions and performance. But not all sites will get government support and not all of our existing portfolio of sites will be suitable for retrofitting and carbon extraction. So how’s your planning going? Do you have a Plan B and are you engaging in widespread discussions with your customers about these issues?

Ultimately, the waste keeps coming and we need to handle it. Well done to all the sites that are doing a great job of managing society’s residues in such a well-controlled and affordable way. The future is undoubtedly more expensive but for who exactly remains less clear.

With so many moving pieces on the policy front it's good to know that we have a plethora of news sources and websites sharing best practice, case studies, innovation and updates of all kinds, including the Energy from Waste Network! 

But learning and sharing doesn’t stop on-line, and in a post-COVID world we are now more comfortable getting back out to conferences, workshops and exhibitions, so I am looking forward to spending 2 days at RWM at the NEC in Birmingham (13 & 14 September) to hear from Government about the latest developments in these policy areas, to hear from peers about new projects and progress and to ask questions that I want answered to any number of expert panels. If you’re going then come and see me for a coffee, I will be in one of two places over the two days – the Leadership Theatre which SUEZ is sponsoring, with a great line up of speakers, or the small SUEZ stand nearby which is showcasing reuse, repair and upcycling!

It's all about the people!

However, the fun doesn’t stop in Birmingham as October sees the Political Party conferences kick off in Manchester and Liverpool. What will we hear in terms of the delayed policy reforms? Where will the emphasis be on decarbonisation and Net Zero in both major political party manifestos? Will CC(U)S get increased attention and funding? All of these political decisions and promises come in the run up to a general election (expected in 2024) and the current cost of living crisis, which makes things much trickier and more interesting than normal.

Will our political leaders make bold statements about fast-tracking some projects and policies or will they focus on reducing consumer costs and marginalising many of the environmental and net zero agendas for a year or two – unfortunately I am expecting the latter. However, I will be at the Labour Annual Party Conference and am heathered by some of the fringe events that are already secured, where we should be able to get some key environmental, energy and business messages across before the manifestos are complete. Wish me well, and if you are going to Liverpool than give a shout and we can catch up and share intel!

Make time…

Anyway, I’ve got to run, with slides to prepare, speeches to write and questions to be developed for any number of panels that I am chairing over the next few months. I said we are entering conference season, and we most definitely are. So embrace the opportunities to get out and about, plan your events widely, and make sure to find time to hear about the reforms, listen to the new and novel stuff on show, and make time for catching up with peers and colleagues to make sure you stay in the know… and have some fun along the way!

And remember it is never to early to plan effectively for your next big event, to make sure you see the right people, hear the right panels, and see the best innovations.

There’s still time to make arrangements to join the Plastics Reprocessing Infrastructure conference in early October (I might see you there) and we should know more about the programme, dates, and visits associated with the Energy from Waste conference in early October, giving you plenty of time to make your plans before we see one another in March 2024, and I am definitely looking forward to it …. policy clarity and new investment sorted!

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 adam.read@suez.com or follow me on social media.

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