Skip to main content

Energy from waste

Scotland is making progress towards its waste targets by transforming residual waste into energy.

Residual waste – waste which cannot be reused, recycled or recovered – forms the lowest aspect of the waste hierarchy and is normally destined for landfill.

However, new technologies are being developed to allow the incineration of residual waste to produce electricity and heat by energy from waste (EFW) operations.

What is energy from waste?

Energy from waste could ultimately contribute up to 31% of Scotland’s renewable heat target and 4.3% of our renewable electricity target under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.

Our Energy from Waste FAQs page contains more information about the process of deriving energy from waste and how it is employed.

How is energy from waste regulated?

Like all other combustion plants burning solid or liquid fuels, the incineration process produces emissions in the form of:

  • acid gases, particulates, dioxins and heavy metals to air;
  • ash residues.

As such, EFW plants are regulated under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) (PPC) Regulations 2012, which includes the controls required under the European Waste Incineration Directive (WID) and must be permitted.

How do I apply for a permit for an EFW operation?

Before making an application, we strongly recommend that you contact us and also consider early engagement with the local community.

Contact us if your authorisation is required urgently within the next three weeks.

To operate an EFW operation, you must apply to us for a permit under the PPC regulations. You must complete our application forms, making use of our guidance:

You must take account of Best Available Techniques and our Thermal Treatment of Waste Guidelines 2014 when describing the proposed activity and its environmental effects, particularly with regard to satisfying the requirements of Regulation 9F of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations 2011, which demands that the recovery of energy takes place with a high level of energy efficiency.

On submitting your completed application, you will be required to pay the appropriate fee. You will also be required to advertise the application in a local newspaper and the Edinburgh Gazette.

The application will be subject to statutory consultation, which includes the requirement for public participation.

Required technical information and assessments for permit applications

A number of assessments are required when submitting an application for a permit under the PPC regulations.

Air modelling

Air modelling is used to investigate the potential effects of emissions to the atmosphere.

There are currently two leading models used for regulatory purposes in the UK – the Air Dispersion Modelling System (ADMS) , developed by Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC), and AERMOD, developed by the US Environmental Protection Agency. 

Both are widely used by consultants and familiarity with both of these models is required for evaluations of external modelling reports. 

We do not prescribe any particular model, but it should be:

  • fit for purpose;
  • based on established scientific principles;
  • be validated and independently reviewed;
  • have a full technical specification with validation and review documents available.

We strongly recommend that an air modelling method statement is submitted to us in advance of any modelling work being carried out.

This has the advantage of agreeing the methods and input parameters in advance, saving time and money.

A method statement should include:

  • choice of model to be used;
  • pollutants of interest and air quality standards/objectives that model results will assessed against;
  • background concentrations to be used;
  • emission parameters, to include:
    • stack location
    • stack height
    • stack diameter
    • exit temperature
    • efflux velocity or flow rate (actual)
    • emission concentrations
    • calculated emission rate
  • meteorology to be used (including years to be modelled, percentage of calm periods in data and where it has been sourced from);
  • buildings to be included in model;
  • terrain to be included in model;
  • grid domain, resolution and locations of sensitive receptors;
  • scenarios to be modelled;
  • model output formats to be presented;
  • any other special treatments which may be required to be assessed.

Human health impact assessment

Any application for a PPC permit will require a Human Health Impact Assessment, which should follow the methodology provided in the Scotland and Northern Ireland Forum for Environmental Research (SNIFFER’s) Assessment of Environmental Legislative and Associated Guidance Requirements for Protection of Human Health and the 2003 version of the Horizontal guidance on assessing environmental impact.

The Environment Agency has also produced additional information on soil deposition rates and guideline values.

Technical guidance

We have produced additional technical guidance to aid you in researching a proposal or making an application:   

Further guidance is available from a number of external agencies:

Contact us

If you require any further help or advice, please contact us.