NLWA response to articles in the Telegraph and SourceMaterial on 04.02.21

5 Feb 2021

Although the articles in The Telegraph and SourceMaterial on 04.02.21 do not refer directly to the North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP), it is important to make clear the inaccuracy of the claims in the report as far as they would apply to our new Energy Recovery Facility.

Carbon emissions

  • While NLWA welcomes the articles’ emphasis on waste reduction and recycling – issues that NLWA campaigns on vigorously – they do not acknowledge the pivotal role that facilities including the NLHPP will play in tackling the Climate Emergency. Since 1990, the waste sector has achieved the greatest greenhouse gas reductions (around 70%) of any sector in the economy. This is principally because EfW has reduced the country’s dependency on landfill.  

  • Non-recyclable waste will continue to be a major challenge in the future, even if the most ambitious recycling targets are met. Everyone is clear on this – including the UK’s Committee on Climate Change, UK Government, GLA and local boroughs. The NLHPP will ensure that north London’s waste is kept out of landfill and used instead as a resource for society.

  • The NLHPP is in line with the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) plan to cut UK carbon emissions. The CCC calls for landfill to be eliminated completely by 2040 and a ban introduced for biodegradable waste by 2025. More information is available here.

  • EfW is the CCC’s preferred disposal route, with Carbon Capture, Utilisation and Storage (CCUS) technology fitted by the 2040s. As a publicly owned and operated asset, the NLHPP will be in a prime position to benefit from this technology when the UK develops infrastructure for carbon transportation and storage. NLWA is designing the NLHPP to ensure that future CCUS is not precluded.

  • The NLHPP will be extremely carbon efficient because, as well as generating electricity, it will provide heating and hot water for thousands of local homes. Compared to landfill, the facility will save 215,000 tonnes of CO2 every year – which is equivalent to taking 110,000 cars off the road. 

  • The NLHPP will be one of the most carbon efficient facilities in the UK. It categorically won’t produce the same carbon emissions as a coal power plant, or produce energy at four times the grid average. Our facility will displace virgin fossil fuel power plants and support the transition to Net Zero.  Our new Energy Recovery Facility will emit around 300 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour (g/kwh) of energy, by replacing heat generated by gas boilers and electricity produced by power plants that use virgin fossil fuels. This is much lower than coal – around 800g/kwh – and lower than natural gas at around 350g/kwh.

Air quality

  • The SourceMaterial article argues that EfW facilities have a significant impact on air quality and public health. This is a common and unsubstantiated myth.

  • The claim is simply at odds with clear guidance set by Public Health England and an extensive body of scientific research which attests to the safety of EfWs. More information is available here. There isn’t ‘new research’ which calls this position into question, as claimed in the article. The clear scientific consensus, supported by independent studies from public health experts at Imperial College London, is that EfWs make an extremely low contribution to pollutants and pose an exceedingly low health risk.
  • The NLHPP will be equipped with the most advanced technologies in the world for controlling emissions and, like the existing plant in Edmonton, it will operate well within the stringent limits set by the Environment Agency. As with the existing plant, full reporting will be provided to the Environment Agency.

Recycling rates

  • The NLHPP will compete with landfill, not recycling. The highest recycling countries in the world – including Denmark and Germany – use EfW to treat their non-recyclable waste, while recycling over 50%. The same is true of some of the highest recycling areas in the UK.

  • NLWA is working hard to boost recycling rates. However, a real step change in recycling depends on Government – whose inaction on this vital issue came into focus yet again this month with a further delay to the Environment Bill. Government needs to empower councils to enforce correct recycling, and make producers financially responsible for the packaging they produce. It is regrettable that the articles do not mention this important point.

Fulfilment of planning obligations

  • The NLHPP is being built now, in line with planning commitments. This includes the creation of lifechanging apprentices and training placements for local young people. NLWA has committed to delivering at least 100 apprentices and 225 skills training opportunities throughout the Project. NLWA is proud to have already appointed 13 apprentices and provided 24 training placements, all before major construction works even began. This programme is delivering real benefits for local people, with eight apprentices from Enfield, and one each from Haringey, Waltham Forest and Hackney. All of the trainee placements have been provided to residents of north London’s seven boroughs.

  • The next round of recruitment will start later this year, and local residents will be kept up to date on how they can apply to be part of our world-class project.  

  • The NLHPP was consented by the Secretary of State after a rigorous Development Consent Order process, which included extensive public consultation and an examination in public. All decisions about the project are fully documented in the public domain and there is categorically no ‘secrecy or disinformation’ in relation to the NLHPP.

The NLHPP will allow north Londoners to recycle much more, use proven and safe technology to treat non-recyclable waste, and accelerate north London towards a carbon neutral future. It is therefore an asset in which we can all take pride.