In  EWHC 1626 (TCC) Engie Fabricom, O’Farrell J essentially had to hold whether the primary activity at an energy from waste plant is power generation or waste treatment. The classification of waste to energy – W2E as either waste recovery (see Waste Framework Directive Recovery Annex, R1 ‘used principally as a fuel or other means to generate energy’) or waste disposal is a classic in EU waste law, with specific implications for shipments permits. It also of course has an impact on a Member State’s waste targets and renewable energy targets. Aside from the Waste Framework Directive, the Industrial Emissions Directive 2010/75 is also involved – although oddly no CJEU authority is mentioned in the judgment.
In the case at issue an interesting extra element is that the plant at issue received funding via the European Regional Development Fund ERDF (at 145) however ERDF funding was for the generation of electricity from the biodegradable part of waste based on advanced fluidised bed gasification technology, which at the time of the application was expected to be 84.65% of the fuel. However, subsequently the plant changed to use refuse derived fuel or RDF without any waste wood which reduced the biodegradable percentage of the waste to 50%.
At 149 Justice O’Farrell concludes that the primary activity at the Energy Works Hull facility is power generation, for the reasons listed there. Of particular relevance is her comment that ‘the plant was not developed or intended to be operated in furtherance of any particular waste or energy policy, although it was consistent with both policy initiatives.’
There is an interesting expert evidence issue to the case, as Gordon Exall discusses here. I am suspecting one or two of the issues involved could be chewed over upon appeal, with reference to CJEU case-law.
Handbook of EU Waste law, OUP, second ed, 2015.
I am in Wuhan 2 1/2 days this week, where I am pleased to be engaging in three of my favourites: a class on environmental law, at Wuhan University’s unparalleled Research Institute of Environmental Law; a session on best practices for PhD research at same; and a conference presentation on conflict of laws at the solidly A+++ ‘Global Forum’ of the Chinese Society of Private International Law and Wuhan University’s Institute of International Law.
Anyways, on my way I inter alia wrote following intro to a volume on Waste to Energy, edited by Harry Post. I thought would share.
The European Union purports to be moving towards a Circular Economy (CE). If recent experience in environmental and energy law is anything to go by, the rest of the world will look with interest to its progress. It is fashionable to say that in the CE ‘waste’ will no longer exist. This is however not relevant beyond semantics. What really matters is how the EU and others after or before it, create the economic and regulatory environment that enables the innovation which a CE requires.
Regulatory circles have ample sympathy for business implementing and bringing to market the many exciting ideas which engineers continue to develop. At the same time one must not be blind to the excess which unchecked engineering imagination does have on society, in all pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental. We must not compromise on a robust regulatory framework which looks after what public health and environmental protection require: two Late Lessons from Early Warnings reports tell us that we would do so at our own peril. However we do have to question continuously whether our existing laws are best practice in reaching that desired outcome. It would be a particular affront if innovative products and services that truly may boost environmental protection, were not to be rolled-out because of anxiety over their legal status.
In an innovative environment, legal certainty is an important driver for success. Lack of clarity over the legal framework and /or the regulators’ implementation of same, leads industry either to seek out and concentrate development on those States with lax or flexible regulators only; or to stick to old and trusted products.
The European Union is particularly suited to providing that clarity. On the scientific front, by investing in research and development, especially at SME and specialised spin-offs level. On the regulatory front, it would do well to work out a regime which enables innovators to query enforcement agencies about the legality of a new product or service line without the fear of subsequently being disciplined for it.
This volume is a scholarly effort to assist with both strands of the exercise. It is to be much commended for that effort and I for one am sure both industry and legal scholars will find its content encouraging.