Consideration of alternatives

This document provides a summary of the alternative plans and proposals the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) considered prior to embarking on the North London Heat and Power Project.

A key element of NLWA's approach for the North London Heat and Power Project is the prevailing planning framework.

The North London Heat and Power Project has been developed following strategic options work previously completed by NLWA which led to a long term procurement strategy for waste management and fuel use. Both of these procurements were ended by NLWA in September 2013 in favour a solution based around an energy recovery facility, as proposed in this project.

North London has had the benefit of the use of the Energy from Waste (EfW) facility at the EcoPark in Edmonton since 1970. Such facilities will inevitably reach the end of their operational life, and NLWA has been assessing the likely timeframe for a replacement solution, and the appropriate strategic approach, for some years.

NLWA's view, based on technical advice, is that the facility can reasonably be expected to continue to operate safely and within regulatory requirements until about 2025. This view is supported by a maintenance regime implemented by London Waste Limited NLWA's waste management contractor and wholly owned company.

Strategic approach

The North London Joint Waste Strategy (Joint Waste Strategy) is a long term strategy for managing the waste which is produced in north London and collected by the seven north London boroughs. The Joint Waste Strategy sets out the strategic aims for the eight authorities (NLWA and the seven boroughs) for the period from 2004-2020, and includes the following jointly agreed strategic objectives:

  • minimise the amount of municipal waste arising
  • maximise recycling and composting rates
  • reduce greenhouse gases by disposing of less organic waste in landfill sites
  • co-ordinate and continuously improve municipal wastes minimisation and management policies in north London; and
  • manage municipal wastes in the most environmentally benign and economically efficient ways possible through the provision and co-ordination of appropriate wastes management facilities and services.

Implementation actions in the Joint Waste Strategy include:

  • a commitment to the continued use of the existing EfW facility for the period of the current waste disposal contract
  • where energy recovery is pursued, undertake to favour processes that qualify for renewables benefits where these provide the Best Practicable Environmental Option.
  • seek to minimise disposal to landfill throughout the period of the Joint Waste Strategy as well as the recovery of energy from landfill gas wherever practicable.

The conclusion of the Joint Waste Strategy is that:

  • the best option for north London is a partnership approach involving the greater integration of collection and disposal services along with the development of shared facilities for recycling, composting and treatment of residual wastes; and
  • the best option for north London will involve the achievement of a 50% household waste recycling and composting rate by 2020. The treatment of residual waste not being landfilled will be provided through the existing EfW facility, and later through replacement processing capacity, giving preference to advanced conversion technologies, especially where products can be used as fuels. The best overall option will take account of net environmental impact, deliverability, reliability and affordability, as well as impacts on collection services.

The Outline Business Case

Building on the Joint Waste Strategy, NLWA’s strategic approach was further developed in an Outline Business Case prepared in January 2010 (OBC).  The OBC formed part of the application for Project Finance Initiative (PFI) credits – a Government scheme for infrastructure development – for financial support for the outcome of the procurement for the waste services and fuel use contracts in north London.  As part of the OBC preparation work, NLWA carried out some analysis, the key points of which were:

  • To set out a long list of possible technologies.  The long list was screened for suitability looking at scale, bankability and its ability to assist in meeting policy objectives.  The long list of possible technologies was also assessed against financial and technical criteria;
  • A short list was then drawn from the long list.  The short list was assessed, against more detailed environmental, technical and financial criteria, in addition to relevant planning policies.
  • The outcome of the technical and financial assessment of the short list of technology was that EfW solutions score best, but that the risks associated with planning delivery of an EfW against the policies in place at the time were high.  This resulted in a decision that this technological solution was not deliverable to meet NLWA’s strategic requirements.
  • The reference project developed was therefore based on Mechanical Biological Treatement (MBT) technology producing a Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF) which would be transported to the point of need and used in an energy recovery facility (ERF).

Planning Policy background

At the time of developing the procurement strategy, the conclusion as to the delivery of an EfW facility was that the risks of an unsuccessful planning application were high.  This was based on the then north London planning context, the key document being the London Plan, together with the emerging North London Waste Plan, and the Enfield Core Strategy.  The then Mayor of London was in favour of new and emerging technologies over incineration.  This position had led to planning delays on EfW projects for the burning of waste leading to electricity generation, and the risk associated with pursuing a replacement EfW facility was seen as unacceptably high.

The potential for a Decentralised Energy Network (DEN) distributing low carbon heat was recognised in the procurement documentation, but proposals brought forward by the market were not sufficiently advanced for this to form part of the Authority’s waste disposal strategy. The London Borough of Enfield’s Supplementary Planning Document relating to the EcoPark was adopted in May 2013, and the Upper Lee Valley Opportunity Area Framework, a London Mayoral planning framework for regeneration of the Upper Lee Valley, was adopted in July 2013. Both of these documents actively support the use of energy generated at the EcoPark for local heat. A further assessment of the planning framework for future waste management proposals was therefore carried out, and the planning assessment of an energy from waste or energy recovery facility was as a result assessed as significantly more favourable.

In addition, the London Borough of Enfield, together with its company Lee Valley Heat Network are now actively progressing plans for a local heat network using heat from the energy produced at the EcoPark.

Costs appraisals

The appraisal of options in the outline business case concluded that the cost of EfW was less than other technological solutions.  However, the adverse planning assessment led to a cost weighting to take account of additional time required, and risks associated with, a planning application and appeal.  The result of this was that an EfW facility was concluded not to be a deliverable solution, and the strategy followed was for MBT producing a fuel, to be burned and produce energy elsewhere.

However, with the changed planning framework, there was no longer any need to risk adjust the EfW solution for planning risk, and NLWA was able to make decisions about future residual waste treatment based on the less expensive EfW /energy recovery solution.

Site Appraisal

The EcoPark site is an existing waste management site which has protected waste use status. It is therefore the key waste management site for the north London area.  NLWA owns a site at Pinkham Way in the London Borough of Haringey.  This site has dual employment use, is a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (Borough Grade I), and is held by NLWA as a strategic public asset.  Future use of the site for waste management will be kept under review as the proposals for the use of the EcoPark develop.

Transfer stations at Hornsey Street (London Borough of Islington) and Hendon (London Borough of Barnet) form part of the waste management network in north London.  There are seven Reuse and Recycling Centres in the area, five of which are managed by NLWA through LondonWaste Ltd.  The intention is to retain these sites, and to seek an additional Resource Recovery Facility at the EcoPark which will encompass a new RRC along with other resource management activities.

Want to know more?

Outline Business Case - See section entitled ‘NLWA Procurement 2010-13'
Notice of decision to end procurement
LVHN website
EcoPark SPD
Upper Lee Valley Opportunity Area Planning Framework
North London Joint Waste Strategy