Tuesday 12 December 2017

Poolbeg Q&A

HASN'T the Poolbeg Incinerator been cancelled?

No. Dublin City Council says it hopes to begin construction next autumn, assuming that a complaint to the European Commission about state aid and alleged breaches of procurement rules is dealt with in coming months.

Haven't we heard this before?

Yes, many times. The history of the incinerator is long and complex, and so far just over €96.3m has been spent on the project with a projected overall cost of €500m.

It was first announced in 2000, and planning permission was received in November 2007 with licences to process waste and produce electricity granted in 2008 and 2009. Since then, the council and private sector partner Covanta have repeatedly extended the deadline to begin works, and in May 2011 a formal complaint was made to the commission.

So what's different now?

Funding is in place, and a "put-or-pay" clause has been removed from the contract. This would have obliged the council to guarantee that 320,000 tonnes of waste would be processed at the plant every year, or make up the shortfall by way of financial penalties. Instead, the council has entered a 15-year legal agreement where it has promised to make up the shortfall if the 600,000-tonne plant is not used to full capacity.

What does this mean?

If, for example, just 500,000 tonnes of waste is processed, there will be a shortfall of 100,000. Under the deal, the council will have to pay Covanta some 60pc of this "lost" revenue.

Sounds expensive?

It could be. In the UK, the average fee per tonne of waste disposed of in an incinerator is £90 (€110). Using these figures, a 100,000-tonne shortfall could cost the council around €6.6m, but it says the plant should be fully utilised.

How big is this plant? Do we still need it?

Spread across three buildings, the main plant is 200 metres long by 130 metres wide, rising to 52 metres at its highest point. The council says it's needed to reduce the volumes of waste going to landfill and to meet EU targets.

What does it do, apart from burn waste?

The plant can use the refuse to produce electricity and heating. About 50,000 homes could be powered, with a similar number provided with heat using a district heating system. The system would also allow the council to tap into the Poolbeg power plant and use the hot water generated to supply hospitals, homes or commercial buildings.

What about jobs?

About 500 construction jobs and 100 full-time posts will be created. It actually is "shovel ready", as all the necessary permissions are in place.

What about local residents?

Many are opposed, but unless the commission complaint stands up, it's ready to go ahead. A community gain fund worth 3pc of the capital cost is available, amounting to €15m. In addition, they will get €1 per tonne of waste processed every year.

Irish Independent

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