Policy to practice: delivering Wales' national waste infrastructure programme

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Posted by APM on 11th Jun 2013

The need to reduce our production of waste, to reuse and recycle as much as possible, and utilise waste materials that remain in a productive way, is built into legislation from the EU level through Government to local authorities who are responsible for dealing with the waste we produce.

One key element of this is food waste as it is a major contributor of greenhouse gases if disposed of as landfill. The approach Wales is taking to develop more sustainable forms of treatment formed the core of this presentation. The talk demonstrated how clear direction, inclusive working practices, commercial engagement with delivery partners and building a holistic team are all critical elements of delivering a national infrastructure programme.

We heard how EU requirements have resulted in the Welsh Governments ambitious strategy Towards Zero Waste. This set out the strategic need to reduce the organic waste (along with other forms of waste) going to landfill, along with clear targets and the need for separate food waste collections at the kerbside. We heard how Wales has identified the infrastructure needed to treat the food waste, utilising anaerobic digestion (AD) technologies to produce bio-gas to generate electricity and a nutrient rich fertiliser that can safely be put back onto farmland. Contractual partnerships have been developed between councils to create economies of scale and ensure that sufficient tonnages of food waste could be brought together to make AD facilities commercially viable. This was a key principle of the procurement strategy and helped create an environment that was attractive for significant, long-term investment.

Local authorities used a process of competitive dialogue to select their commercial partners to construct and operate AD plants for 15 years contracts. The strategy sought to encourage bidders from across the industry and had to retain flexibility to deal with different project funding mechanisms. The wider food and residual waste programme has a forecast capital value of around 750m so it was important to demonstrate that this approach would offer whole life value for the public purse as well as environmental benefits. To facilitate delivery, the Welsh government established the central programme team with industry expert and commercial knowledge of complex waste treatment projects. This team helped developed the business case for investment, established the industrys capability to deliver, gave practical support to authority partnerships and guided these consortia through the procurement process. This team also established and maintained a robust governance framework with a high level political involvement through a Ministerial Programme Board.

The key lessons that we took from the presentation were that it is possible to deliver a 3.5bn revenue funded investment programme that was planned to run for 25 years with some of the classic elements of PPM:

  • a clearly identified vision of success at an early stage gives a real focus for delivery
  • pro-active team working between partners to drive success
  • good governance with awareness of commercial needs
  • active and informed client engagement with stakeholders who could influence outcomes (e.g. in this case, raising awareness of AD technologies with planning officers) and in developing confidence for investors
  • fundamentally, building the right team with a pro-active and holistic approach, who are trained to understand the projects, the approach being used and how to manage the associated risks
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