NLWA response to deputations received at the Authority meeting on Thursday 16 December 2021
On Thursday 16 December, North London Waste Authority (NLWA) Members voted in favour of awarding a contract to Acciona to build the UK’s greenest Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) at Edmonton EcoPark. The agreement to award the contract is reported on the Project website.
During the meeting, ten deputations were received. NLWA would like to thank everyone who took the time to write to the Authority and to speak at the meeting.
NLWA have consistently listened to the comments of residents and Members have regularly reviewed the project to make sure the careful and responsible plans to replace the existing energy from waste plant will help to protect the planet and safeguard our communities from environmental, health and financial risks. The decision to award the contract to Acciona follows years of work and research to ensure the very best facility is built to manage north London’s rubbish.
The following themes outline NLWA’s response to the points raised in the deputations. It includes links to more detailed information on websites.
Tackling the climate emergency
Deputations included comments on the environmental and carbon impacts of the Project and claims that it is incompatible with efforts to tackle the climate emergency.
The North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP) will play a major part in NLWA’s progress to tackle the climate emergency by helping to reduce waste, increase recycling, and minimise the impact of unrecyclable waste. To achieve this, we’re building the UK’s greenest ERF, which is a major investment in safe, clean and efficient waste management infrastructure for north London. The ERF will displace carbon-intensive processes, lowering the net carbon impact of the facility. By diverting waste from landfill, which is the worst option for the environment, the ERF will reduce the carbon impact of north London’s non-recyclable waste. Avoiding export of waste is part of London’s policy to achieve self-sufficiency in waste management by 2026 as stipulated by the Mayor of London. It is evident that our plans align with the recommendations for managing waste as set out in the Climate Change Committee’s 6th Carbon Budget. This is available on the Climate Change Committee website here: theccc.org.uk/publication/sixth-carbon-budget/.
We are further working to tackle the climate emergency by using north London’s rubbish as a resource for society, in the form of heat and power for thousands of homes. The provision of sustainable heat is essential for London’s transition to a net-zero carbon economy. The EcoPark will deliver one of the largest district heat networks in London, as reported in our statement on the district heat network. The carbon intensity of the heat network will be lower than the alternative of using gas boilers. In addition to displacing power plants that use virgin fossil fuels, the ERF will recover metals from residual waste for recycling. This helps to avoid the carbon-intensive process of extracting new metals from the ground. The credentials of the ERF support the wider efforts of NLWA to tackle the climate emergency through waste prevention and recycling campaigns and provision of modern recycling facilities.
Carbon impact and emission calculations
Deputations included comments on the facility’s carbon impact and the calculation method used for assessing carbon emissions.
NLWA has specified the UK’s greenest ERF which will reduce the carbon impact of north London’s unrecyclable rubbish by diverting it from landfill, which is the worst option for the environment. The facility is unlocking one the UK’s largest district heat networks which will generate heat and hot water for up to 50,000 local homes – displacing the need for gas boilers.
Our facility is expected to have the lowest carbon intensity of any facility in the UK, as reported in our statement on the Project’s carbon impact.
Concern was raised in a deputation that NLWA’s carbon calculating was not accurate due to IPCC guidance changing so that biogenic waste should be included in greenhouse gas inventories. For the avoidance of doubt, in 2019, the IPCC Task Force for Greenhouse Gas Inventories said: “If incineration of waste is used for energy purposes both fossil and biogenic CO2 emissions should be reported as an information item also in the Energy Sector… only fossil CO2 should be included in national emissions under the Energy Sector while biogenic CO2 should be reported as an information item in the Energy Sector.” This is precisely how NLWA carried out its carbon impact assessment. This is because plants sequester carbon when they grow. This means calculations for electricity from energy from waste plants in carbon terms should not include the biogenic portion of the waste. Furthermore, we are not only generating electricity but also heat energy which is considered the most environmentally responsible way of treating waste.
A deputation also raised a concern that NLWA’s assessment of the relative emissions of the ERF did not take account of the BEIS document “Valuation of greenhouse gas and energy use, supplementary guidance to the HM Treasury Green Book on appraisal and evaluation in Central Government. The Authority notes that this is a guidance document for options appraisal not for reporting, aimed at new Government policy development. The guidance was issued in October 2021. However, the guidance identifies – and the Authority recognises – that over time the average and marginal carbon intensity of power generation will reduce. This reflects the intended decarbonisation of the UK’s power supply. As there is not a route for residual waste disposal which involves lower greenhouse gas emissions than a modern, efficient energy recovery facility, it remains the case that the Authority’s project remains beneficial in greenhouse gas terms compared to alternative residual waste disposal options. The report which referenced the net carbon impact of the facility as 28,000 tonnes per year was not intended to be a lifetime appraisal. It remains realistic and accurate whilst there remains virgin fossil-fuelled electricity generation in the UK energy mix, in particular gas-fired plant which currently provides approximately 40% of the nation’s electricity, it is rational to assume that this should be displaced by less carbon-intensive baseload generation such as from the ERF. National Grid have reported that gas-fired generation could continue to meet anywhere between 7%–40% of annual electricity demand in 2035.
The Committee on Climate Change recognises that energy from waste facilities like ours are the best solution for residual waste management through to 2050 with Government facilitating incorporation of Carbon Capture and Storage technology in that time. NLWA has accelerated its plan for Carbon Capture and Storage technology. We have already agreed a strategy which aims to be amongst the first in London to operate carbon capture. This would be right at the forefront of Climate Change Committee targets and make our facility carbon negative.
Air quality and health impacts
Deputations covered comments on public health impacts as a result of air quality, including brominated dioxins, ultrafine particulates, de novo synthesis and guidance from the World Health Organisation (WHO).
As a public authority, it is our priority to protect public health, and that is why we have continually considered it across all aspects of the project and Members have stipulated the most advanced ERF in the UK.
The ERF will be the first in the UK to use advanced technologies to capture and control pollutants including dioxins. The facility will also benefit from a combined dry/wet scrubber, making it one of the safest, greenest, and cleanest in the country. NLWA’s sister facility ‘Copenhill’ in Denmark uses much of the same advanced technology. The facility was featured on Sir David Attenborough’s ‘Earthshot’ documentary as an example of a pioneering solution for cleaning up the city’s air. The episode titled, ‘Clean Our Air’, concluded that Copenhill is so clean that “you almost have fresh mountain air on top of it”. We’re proud to be delivering an ERF in north London that also meets high environmental standards. What is frustrating for NLWA and should be a real worry for campaigners in this space is that none of the subsequent 20 ERF facilities around the UK that have secured permission since ours in 2017 have included such advanced technologies to capture and control pollutants.
As a result of our advanced emissions controls and the high altitude of discharge, the facility's contribution to pollutant concentrations at ground level is small. For the large majority of the year, its contribution is effectively zero and the predicted concentrations are well below the limits of detection. It would only be for a few hours in a year that its contribution would be measurable, and this would be at levels of less than 2% of the relevant air quality standard for all but a few hours each year.
Concentrations of particulates from our ERF will be well within WHO limits. The WHO limit for PM2.5 is 5µg/m3. The highest concentrations of particulates at ground level from our facility are expected to be 0.006µg/m3, almost 1,000 times lower than the WHO limit. ACCIONA has confirmed that they will be able to perform within this stringent limit. This is massively outweighed by other sources like road transport, which is responsible for 25% of particulate emissions across London.
In its report, ‘Ultrafine Particles in the UK’, the UK Air Quality Expert Group states: “there have been a number of studies of municipal waste incinerators which show highly effective removal of UFP”. The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ link to the report is available here https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat09/1807261113_180703_UFP_Report_FINAL_for_publication.pdf
Experts from the University of Birmingham say that, after dispersion and dilution, the level of UFPs is typically indistinguishable from those that would occur in the absence of an incinerator. The article entitled ‘Emission of Ultrafine Particles from the Incineration of Municipal Solid Waste: A Review’ can be found on the University of Birmingham’s website here research.birmingham.ac.uk/en/publications/emission-of-ultrafine-particles-from-the-incineration-of-municipa.
With regards to de novo synthesis, which was highlighted in one of the deputations, it has been claimed that, through this process, dioxins and furans might reform inside or outside an energy from waste facility, after the waste has passed through the boiler. These claims are based on laboratory reports from the 1990s which examined the gas under experimental – not real world – conditions. The temperatures applied in these studies were between 275 and 350 degrees Celsius.
The issues around de novo synthesis simply don’t apply to our ERF. At no point in the flue gas treatment system will temperatures reach those cited in the study. This prevents the reformation of furans and dioxins and complies with the EU’s Best Available Techniques for waste incineration. The tenderer has confirmed that flue gas will leave the stack at 65 degrees – nowhere near the temperatures required for reformation of dioxins and furans. The issue of de novo synthesis relates to older facilities which don’t comply with strict modern emissions control standards.
With regard to fly ash from the facility (the residue from the flue gas cleaning system), this is carefully controlled hazardous waste that will be disposed securely.
One of the deputations referenced brominated dioxins in relation to the NLHPP. The deputee stated that brominated dioxins are not generally tested, so any estimate of dioxin contamination by NLWA would be an underestimate. As defined by the Industrial Emissions Directive (IED), brominated dioxins are not included when determining dioxin calculations. NLWA has followed these industry guidelines. The limits for dioxin emissions were set by the IED with the knowledge that not all forms of dioxin are included in the inventory, and a safety margin will have been included to capture the uncertainty introduced by not including all forms of dioxins. There are fewer brominated substances in the residual waste and therefore the amount of brominated dioxins will be much lower than the already extremely stringent limits placed on the release of chlorinated dioxins and furans. The Environment Agency recognise this and have factored it into their decision for the permit of the new Energy Recovery Facility, stating: “we assess the impact of chlorinated compounds as representing the impact of all chlorinated, brominated and mixed dioxins / furans and dioxin like PCBs”. As stated above, our facility will use the most advanced technology available to clean and control emissions.
One of the deputations quoted the GLA report ‘Health Effects due to Emissions from Energy from Waste Plant in London’ which says “In total, 15 deaths of London residents per year are calculated to be attributable to emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter from the five EfW facilities” (page3) . NLWA made it very clear at the time that this statement was fundamentally inaccurate in a response to London energy recovery report by Air Quality Consultants Ltd It overstated particulate emissions from our facility by 400%. The same report also confirmed that controls on modern plants are highly effective in controlling pollutants and generally very low compared with other outdoor sources of pollutants. The report can be found on the GLA’s website here: london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/gla_efw_study_final_may2020.pdf.
In contrast, Public Health England is very clear that “PHE’s risk assessment remains that modern, well run and regulated municipal waste incinerators are not a significant risk to public health”.
Imperial College London – one of the world’s leading universities for epidemiological research – reviewed our facility as part of extensive research carried out about the health impacts of modern energy from waste facilities. It concluded that modern facilities have an exceedingly small impact on pollution and present an extremely low risk to public health. The report can be found here: doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2019.05.039.
The Institute of Occupational Medicine has also been clear that any potential health risks associated with direct emissions from modern, effectively managed and regulated energy from waste facilities in London are exceedingly low.
One deputation asked whether NLWA has considered the cost to the NHS over the lifetime of the new facility. As stated, there is clear scientific consensus and evidence that facilities like ours do not pose a significant risk to public health. We are investing in the world’s most advanced technology to reduce emissions and clean up air quality, therefore a study of this kind suggested is not needed for north London. A Health Impact Assessment was submitted as part of the Development Consent Order process which concludes that our facility is not a significant health risk. Read Section 5 of our ‘Health Impact Assessment Report’, found in the Project’s ‘DCO Documents Library’.
An extensive Environmental Statement, which analysed air quality impacts, was also prepared for the project during the Development Consent Order (DCO) process which was reviewed by the independent Planning Inspectorate and the Environment Agency before DCO consent was granted in 2017. This published analysis shows categorically that the new facility will operate well within stringent air quality and public health standards. Regular monitoring of pollutants will be provided as part of the ERF’s Environmental Permit and reported to the Environment Agency. The Environmental Statements can be found on the project website here: northlondonheatandpower.london/documents/environmental-statement/
NLWA knows that air quality is a major health issue for London, but it is wrong to suggest that our clean and modern ERF will make a significant impact. On the contrary, the technology is so advanced that we will effectively eliminate concentrations of pollution from our facility at ground level where people are exposed. This stands in huge contrast for the real sources of pollution in Enfield. Road transport is a key emitter, causing 43.5% of NOx and 29.6% of particulates.
Deputations included comments about the size of the ERF and claims that there is an overcapacity in London and the new ERF is surplus to requirement.
NLWA’s responsibility is to deliver long-term waste disposal and recycling services for north London’s two million residents. We have a duty to provide appropriate capacity to manage north London’s rubbish and there are significant risks with not providing this. Most significantly, it could mean disposing of residents’ residual waste in ways which are more environmentally harmful, for example by sending to landfill or transporting to waste facilities with worse environmental performance. As well as being worse for the environment, these options would also have significant adverse financial consequences.
The size of the ERF, which was raised in several deputations, has been carefully planned by examining future waste trends in north London. Our forecasts are based on a thoroughly researched ‘Need Assessment’ for residual waste capacity which was carried out for the project.
The new facility is part of London’s overall capacity requirements and fully aligns with the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy. The GLA’s waste capacity modelling sets out clear capacity requirements for EfW facilities to deal with London’s residual waste arisings. London currently has four EfW facilities, which are all accounted for in the modelling. In addition to our ERF, these include the Cory Riverside Energy Park, South East London Combined Heat and Power and the Beddington ERF. Even in the most ambitious scenario, with achieving 65% recycling and a 50% reduction in food waste, London would still have a shortfall in capacity if the NLHPP is not built as soon as London’s old plants retire, which is expected in the mid-2030s. No other London facility could be compelled to take north London’s waste.
We have designed the facility flexibly so that it can operate successfully without being full. If society moves more quickly to a circular economy, we can modify the facility to continue operating at lower volumes, so there is no need for us to take in external waste from other areas.
The existing facility at the EcoPark cannot manage the volume of waste generated by north London, with third party collected commercial waste currently treated elsewhere. The sizing of the new ERF does not include business waste generated in the north London boroughs. The facility’s flexible capacity is important for our future ability to manage responsibly our own waste without having to export to other parts of the country.
Environmental racism and social injustice
Deputations included comments on the environmental and social implications of redeveloping Edmonton EcoPark.
Our project is providing crucial investment to protect the environment and improve the quality of life for local people. As a result of the advanced emission controls outlined earlier in the letter, the contribution of the new ERF to pollutant concentrations at ground level will be effectively zero and the predicted concentrations are well below the limits of detection. By comparison, in Enfield, road transport emissions are responsible for 43.5% of NOx, while the industrial and commercial sector contributes 52.1%. Real action to improve air quality needs to focus on these sources and not our facility, which will carry out a vital public service for nearly one quarter of London’s population, while protecting public health and diverting thousands of tonnes of rubbish from landfill every year.
The project is already bringing economic and employment opportunities for north London’s residents, including those who live nearest the site. We’re creating life-changing opportunities for local people, including at least 100 apprenticeships and 225 on-site training placements. 20 apprentices have already joined our award-winning apprenticeship programme. This is alongside 107 training placements for school leavers and people out of work, 41% of whom have secured jobs after their training with us. The ERF contract will directly create another 90 apprenticeships and 180 training placements, as well as 418 full-time equivalent roles for local people at a time when these opportunities are so desperately needed.
We’re a major part of Enfield Council’s vision to create a high-tech, low-carbon jobs cluster in Edmonton. We’re providing heat and hot water from our facility directly to Meridian Water, which will provide new jobs and affordable homes in the area. And we’re already supporting local businesses, including the Ark Data Centre, by providing direct electricity. We expect other major employers to be attracted to the area because of our facility.
Deputations included comments about the need for mixed sorting facilities to remove plastics and other recyclables from residual waste, drawing on examples in the Netherlands, Norway and in Cheshire.
NLWA carefully monitors and reviews developments across the waste sector, including pre-sorting plants. One of the deputations cited countries that have implemented separation plants. Unfortunately, the evidence from all the countries citied in the deputation does not suggest that our ERF could be replaced by one of these facilities.
It can be misleading to compare facilities which deal with waste having a very different composition. In north London, as elsewhere in England, the approach is to collect mixed dry recycling separately from residual waste. This keeps recycling “clean” and allows it to be more easily sorted in material recovery facilities. It minimises the volume of materials such as plastic, paper and cardboard in the residual waste because residents are encouraged to separate it at home. This approach is not followed universally in Europe. In some areas such as parts of the Netherlands, plastics are not collected separately from households. The residual waste therefore has a much higher plastic content than in England. In this situation pre-sorting is necessary to extract recyclate volumes which are not present in our residual waste.
The Government here has indicated that its intention is for segregated collection arrangements to continue and to be made more consistent across the country. Measures which increase the volume of recyclable material being included in separate recycling collections will reduce the volume of material which could be extracted by pre-sorting.
The same deputee explained that separation plants have been operational for many years in the Netherlands. However, these facilities have a low recovery rate. A large proportion of materials are contaminated with food, chemicals and oils, making them only suitable for energy recovery by incineration.
Reference was made to the Dutch facility in Wijster as a model that NLWA could follow. Firstly, it is important to clarify that the plant manages waste from local authorities which don’t provide separate recycling collections. Instead, residents use a single bin for all their waste. Second, the Wijster site has a large EfW plant, with greater capacity than the Edmonton facility. That is needed needed because there are substantial volumes of waste for disposal even after it has gone through pre-treatment. The Wijster plant is one of a number operated by the company Attero. In 2020 Attero reported that they segregated 50,000 tonnes of plastics, metals and beverage cartons out of a total capacity of four million tonnes treated by the company. This can be found on the plant operator’s ‘Performance and Investments’ webpage. The Wijster facility has also repeatedly caught fire, which was captured in a recent documentary about waste fires in the Netherlands. In November 2020, fire crews had to visit the plant twice in 24 hours to put out fires caused by plastic granules. Fire crews attended the site again in June 2021.
Mention was also made of the AEB Amsterdam pre-sorting facility. The facility has underperformed against expectations and was subject to an investigative report in 2020 by the Municipality of Amsterdam called ‘The Silence Before Shutting Down’ (De stilte voor het stilleggen). It highlighted underperformance in recycling, issues with contamination and poor-quality materials, along with frequent downtime due to mechanical problems. The report can be read here: De-stilte-voor-het-stilleggen.pdf (ecri.nl).
The Dutch facilities cited in the deputation have not removed the need for EfW. Their use is mainly a result of the different recycling system in the Netherlands, where around 63% of household waste is collected from the kerbside, and 37% from “bring/drop off” collections.
The deputation also made reference to the IVAR LKS facility in Norway that employs optical sorting technologies to extract plastics out of residual waste which drastically improves recycling rates. The deputation cites an 82% recovery rate in 2019.
It is important to note that IVAR manages the waste from 10 municipalities with an approximate population of 325,000, which is around one sixth the size of the north London population. In an attempt to make plastic waste sorting easier for people and increase plastic recycling rates, IVAR introduced putting plastics in the residual waste - however, food, paper, beverage cartons, cardboards, glass, electronic waste and hazardous waste is already sorted. This means IVAR’s residual waste composition is significantly different to that of north London which contains large amounts of organic waste, paper/cardboard, glass etc.
The IVAR facility uses 22 of Tomra’s Autosort sorting units to sort plastics (PET, PS, LDPE, HDPE, PP) out of the residual waste. It is claimed that the process enables 82% of the plastics from ‘black bags’ to be recovered and turned into recycled plastics. Taking into consideration that the proportion of plastics in IVAR’s residual waste will be higher than in north London because the there is no separate recycling collections, the potential recovery rate of plastic waste from residual waste in north London is not comparable.
The space requirements for the plastic sorting, processing and extrusion facilities are also very large. The land-take required for a sorting plant and plastic processing plant would be significant and exceed the available land at the EcoPark site. No suggestion has been made as to where such facilities should be sited in north London.
In north London, we prioritise kerbside recycling collections and manage recycling via a Materials Recovery Facility. Furthermore, our new facilities will use new technologies to help increase our recycling rate and we are exploring options to include a modern scale picking line to maximise the amount of recycling. Our RRF is currently being built with a flexible design that can meet society’s needs as they change over time and technology advancements in the recycling industry are made.
The Ørsted Renescience facility in Cheshire, which is referenced in the deputation, does not have anywhere near enough capacity to manage north London’s residual waste. It was intended to open in 2017 and was expected to have capacity to treat 120,000 tonnes per annum. It’s opening was delayed on a number of occasions and commenced operation in 2019, with a capacity to treat 80,000 tonnes per annum. At least seven equivalent facilities would be needed to treat north London’s residual waste.
The deputation suggests that NLWA could make significant income from selling plastics from black bag waste. But the deputation massively overstates the value of dirty plastic that people have thrown in the bin. Although some plastics do attract high per tonne rates others do not. Plastics make up around 8-10% of each tonne of dry recyclate collected by the Constituent Boroughs and of all of these plastics collected around 20-25% have no value at all (LDPE and mixed plastics). So while ‘HDPE clear’ attracts circa £600 a tonne, the facility to which recyclates are sent for processing needs to process 100t of material to recover that tonne. Furthermore, film costs £72 per tonne to sell to a processor. Residents can already recycle plastics on their doorstep – so our focus is rightly on encouraging correct recycling in the first place.
Finally, the deputation suggests that Members should arrange a number of study trips to the Ørsted facility in Cheshire and to Holland and Norway. Current findings are yet to prove these technologies can effectively sort and capture material of the right quality and quantity which is acceptable to the reprocessing market. And for the reasons above, it would be unrealistic to assume that they represented a way to remove the need for the energy recovery facility. However, NLWA members and officers are always interested in learning more about waste and recycling technologies to identify ways to keep increasing the recycling rate and would be very happy to explore these options, including visits to these technologies when travel and visits can be safely accommodated.
Deputations included comments on the availability of alternative methods to manage waste and calls for an evaluation of the alternatives put forward, including post-separation facilities.
The decision to proceed with the NLHPP was taken after a comprehensive review of the alternative options, details of which can be found in the ‘Alternative Assessment Report’. Our assessment looked at alternatives such as Mechanical Biological Treatment, pyrolysis and gasification, and post-separation facilities. Upon careful consideration, we have concluded that no other approach can provide as responsible and sustainable a solution for managing north London’s rubbish compared to the ERF. The alternatives that have been put forward are unproven at the scale we need to serve north London’s two million residents.
Untested and unreliable alternatives would jeopardise NLWA’s essential services and incur the unacceptable financial and environmental costs of transporting our waste out of north London for treatment. Transporting waste to landfill or alternative facilities with less advanced emissions control systems will cause more pollution and impose higher costs on boroughs.
All of the alternatives would inevitably have higher carbon and air quality impacts. Our responsibility is to deliver long-term services that enhance social value, help protect the planet and safeguard our communities from environmental, health and financial risks.
Impact on recycling rates
Deputations included comments on north London’s current recycling rate and raised concerns that the ERF will compete with recycling and waste prevention efforts.
Our primary objective as a waste authority is for north London to produce less waste and recycle more. We run the most extensive waste prevention programme of any waste authority in London and our activities are aligned with the waste hierarchy.
We are constantly innovating and driving change at a local level, promoting extensive waste reduction and best recycling practices. This can be seen with our pioneering schemes like mattress recycling and polystyrene recycling, offering shining examples of what can be achieved by a waste authority. We believe that we can achieve even more by working collaboratively on our shared goals to reduce waste and improve recycling in our communities.
The upgrades to Edmonton EcoPark align with our efforts to help residents recycle more and reduce their waste. We’re constructing new waste management facilities which are critical for reaching recycling rates that are in line with the Mayor of London’s Environment Strategy. The Mayor has set recycling targets and expects London to achieve a 65% recycling rate by 2030, 50% household recycling and 77% business recycling. The NLHPP is consistent with this policy and includes a Resource Recovery Facility (RRF), and a public Reuse and Recycling Centre (RRC), allowing north London residents and businesses to bring recycling direct to the EcoPark for the first time. This significant development sets a benchmark for other waste authorities. NLWA’s investment in recycling infrastructure is a major part of NLWA’s waste prevention and recycling strategy.
Concerns were raised in the deputations with regards to the impact of our facility on north London’s efforts to increase recycling. NLWA would like to be clear that there is no evidence to suggest that low recycling rates are associated with EfW facilities. In fact, some of the local authorities with the best recycling rates are using EfW - including South Oxfordshire and Stratford-Upon-Avon. Further, the flexible capacity of the new ERF means that it can still run effectively on lower tonnages and boroughs won’t be ‘locked in’ to sending waste to the facility. This will ensure that it doesn’t compete with recycling efforts or undermine waste reduction.
We are challenged by Government delays to vital reforms that have the capability to impact recycling rates – like compulsory recycling and a deposit return scheme. Ultimately, we need central Government and businesses to recognise the link between unsustainable consumption, the waste it generates, and its consequences for the Climate Emergency. We hope north London residents will join us in calling for greater action from Government to make the systemic change that’s needed to solve our country’s colossal waste crisis.
Procurement – value for money
Deputations included comments that the contract awarded to Acciona to build the ERF does not represent value for money and is not in the best interests of north London residents.
NLWA conducted a rigorous procurement process and has been able to negotiate the best value and environmental solution for managing north London’s waste. The contract with Acciona is for the delivery of the cleanest, greenest, and most technologically advanced ERF in the UK, with the strictest possible emissions controls. The contract binds Acciona to implementing the Authority’s requirements.
The tender assessment arrangement was set at the very outset of the procurement process, before any bids were received. NLWA has been transparent and consistent in maintaining the process that was set out at the start.
NLWA is clear that the ERF contract represents outstanding value for money. A robust value for money exercise was undertaken in line with The Green Book guidance by HM Treasury and it has also been identified that alternative options would have a higher cost. The full Value for Money Statement is available in Appendix B of the North London Heat and Power Project Energy Recovery Facility Procurement Report to the Authority Meeting on the 16 December 2021. This is available on the NLWA website here: nlwa.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2021-12/03%20ERF%20Procurement.pdf.
The pre-tender cost estimate has been exceeded. Since that pre-tender valuation was carried out a range of new factors have influenced costs and risks. These include the impact of coronavirus on construction operations, on material supplies and costs, and the final shape of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union. A detailed benchmarking exercise has established that the result of the tender is within market rates and represents value for money. The overall project budget established in 2019 included an appropriate contingency, recognising the degree of uncertainty inherent in a large scale, long term project. Therefore, the project as a whole remains within the budget set in 2019. 95% of the costs in the contract have been validated through market quotations and supporting information, so are locked in, protecting the Authority against any changes to future costs on these items.
Awarding the contract marks a major step forward in north London’s efforts to tackle the climate emergency and deliver a project that provides value for money for council taxpayers.
Procurement – scoring of the tender
Deputations included comments on the scoring of Acciona’s tender.
The agreed procurement strategy for the ERF was to tender the project under the Public Contracts Regulations (2015) Competitive Dialogue procedure. The Authority’s intent was to award a lump sum design and build contract under an amended form of IChemE Red Book, commonly used for projects requiring high technical input and where proof of service or performance is required. At the Authority meeting on 25 June 2020, Members agreed to the start of the procurement for the ERF Construction Contract, on the basis that the decision on award of the contract would be brought back to Members in due course.
In light of Acciona being the only tenderer to subsequently submit a bid, legal opinion was sought, and it was identified that the relevant regulation permits proceeding with a single tenderer into the dialogue phase, but additional steps had to be taken to demonstrate value for money in these circumstances. To demonstrate that the procurement recommendation represented value for money, a full benchmarking analysis and evaluation of the tenderer's price was undertaken.
The tender evaluation mechanism was established prior to the tender process and was communicated through the Invitation to Submit a Detailed Solution (ISDS) phase, aimed at enabling differentiation between tenderers. To drive competition, the scoring was calibrated so that relatively lower scores were reserved for where a tenderer met requirements, reserving higher scores for those that delivered added benefits, beyond the requested requirements. Although only one tender was received the evaluation procedure could not be amended and was used in assessing the Acciona initial tender. The detailed evaluation results were used constructively during the Dialogue period to clarify NLWA’s requirements prior to the Invitation to Submit a Final Tender (ISFT)
There was no minimum threshold score, however NLWA reserved the right to reject a tender that was given one or more lower scores. This gave NLWA discretion to decide to award the contract where, as is the case with Acciona, there are some areas of uncertainty in the tender that are to be expected at this stage in the development of a proposal of such significant scale and complexity.
A detailed evaluation of the technical, quality and management content of the tenderer’s proposal identified a high level of confidence that the tender will meet the NLWA’s requirements and that, whilst the scoring resulted in a numerically modest result, the tender was compliant and there were no major areas of uncertainty which would warn against an award of contract.
In the commercial assessment, it was recognised that the submitted price addressed the prevalent economic challenges, including:
- The emerging impacts of Brexit in terms of the labour market and availability of construction materials and products.
- High demand in the construction industry from both a spike in demand following the restrictions of 2020 and economic stimulus from Government spending; and
- A volatile background of rising inflation and energy prices.
These impacts were not specifically addressed in the NLWA’s pre-tender estimate, which subsequently prevented high scoring due to the requirement to maintain the evaluation mechanism established at the outset of the tender process. However, as mentioned previously, the value for money exercise confirmed the suitability of the contract price and the NLWA confirmed that the prudent overall risk allowance within the NLHPP baseline estimate catered for these impacts.
Acciona, supported by the long-established expertise from their technology supplier, brings together two of the most prominent companies in the sector and has proposed a high performing design solution which delivers on the requirements of the Authority and fully complies with the Development Consent Order. The technology supplier is a global leader in the EfW industry and has the experience, track record and knowledge to deliver a world-class facility. NLWA can unequivocally confirm that Acciona’s tender meets the Authority’s stringent technical, quality and environmental as required by the Specification which formed part of the procurement documentation.
Energetik district heat network
Deputations questioned how the heat network will operate if north London successfully reduce waste volumes.
Our ERF has been sized carefully to accept different volumes of rubbish, according to society’s needs in the future. While it will have a maximum capacity of 700,000 tonnes per year, it will be flexible enough to operate at a reduced capacity of 490,000 tonnes per year if we all reduce rubbish faster than expected. This figure is based on an increased population in north London which assumes that each person reduces their personal rubbish generation by one third.
The flexibility of the facility means that even when operating at a lower capacity, it will still meet electricity and heat supply obligations to Energetik, who we are working with to unlock the UK’s largest district heating network, and Ark Data Centre in Edmonton, which runs solely on energy produced at the existing plant, as well as future anticipated power demands.