Power from rubbish gets the tick

Daniel Mercer

Plans to use household rubbish to generate electricity could become a reality in Perth by 2017, with Environment Minister Albert Jacob tipped to give the nod to the city's first "waste-to-energy" plant.

New Energy wants to take up to 150,000 tonnes of a year waste from Perth's southern suburbs to fuel a 16MW power plant in East Rockingham that would cost about $180 million to build.

The ambitious plans, which would provide enough electricity to power more than 20,000 homes, come on top of further developed plans by the company for a similar plant in Port Hedland.

The Port Hedland project is set to be developed after New Energy signed a deal to manage the City of Karratha's waste and it was approved by Mr Jacob last June.

In a decision believed to be imminent, _The West Australian _understands Mr Jacob is set to sign off on the Perth-based company's East Rockingham plans. It has already been given the green light by the Environmental Protection Authority. Such an approval would be another boon to the company, whose projects last year got a $50 million loan from the Federal Government's renewable energy bank.

Waste-to-energy technology is also understood to have the backing of Premier Colin Barnett, who was impressed by it on a trip to Japan and South Korea in 2010.

Although New Energy chief executive Jason Pugh was tight-lipped about the Minister's impending decision, he said the East Rockingham plant could be built by the first half of 2017 in a best-case scenario.

Mr Pugh acknowledged there was excess generating capacity in the South West electricity grid but noted this would change and the initiative was more about recycling. He said WA had among Australia's lowest recycling rates and waste-to-energy would be a key means of reversing that.

"The project needs to compete against fossil fuel generation," he said. "But it's a base-load, renewable energy power station, so it's a bit of a game-changer in that respect."