Experts Offer Funding Advice on Waste-to-Energy Projects

Consultants share observations, success stories at Waste Conversion Congress West Coast 2011 event.

April 11, 2012
Recycling Today Staff

For solid waste districts or for-profit companies to engage in a dramatic shift away from land-filling and toward energy-from-waste systems, the level of investment will have to be considerable.

Two consultants offered advice on how to navigate these waves of technology at the Waste Conversion Congress West Coast 2011 event, held in December  in San Jose, Calif.

Among the speakers at the event who offered their views on how money is flowing in the energy-from-waste sector was John May of Stern Brothers & Co., St. Louis.

May said most commercial banks “are not lending to this space because they view it as too risky.” Those seeking financing have had greater success in the bond market, he noted. (Readers of Renewable Energy from Waste magazine will be able to learn more from May in a series of articles he is co-authoring. The first article, “Healthy Support,” will be in the Spring 2012 issue.)

Taking part in the solid waste sector is nothing new for creators of bond issues, said May, who remarked that some forms of solid waste bonds “have been around since the 1970s.” Within the bond market, “There is an appetite for high-yield, or riskier, bonds; there is an appetite for that kind of paper,” May commented.

Mark Riedy of the Washington-based law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo told attendees that the U.S. military has been the foremost advocate for bio-fuels in the world, with the Navy and Air Force seeking to operate on 50 percent bio-fuels by 2020. “That an enormous amount,” he commented.

Other nations have established considerable investment funds in the bio-fuels sector, said Riedy, including a $24 billion “green investment bank” in the United Kingdom and a $13.2 billion Clean Energy Finance Corp. program in Australia.

In addition to the armed forces, a number of agencies in the United States have bio-fuels support programs available, including the United States Department of Agriculture, said Riedy, who also is general counsel for the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE).

Attorney John Pierce, based in Seattle for DLA Piper, told Congress attendees, “The federal funding is going away” in some cases. He added, “I never thought it was all that good.”

Pierce remarked that there also are funding sources in international markets such as China, the United Arab Emirates or Singapore, “if you have the risk appetite.”

In his view, many of the projects in the United States seeking funding have put “too much focus on technology” and not enough focus on logistics or feedstocks. “Is your feedstock sustainable?” he asked attendees.

Waste Conversion Congress West Coast 2011, held in December 2011 at the Convention Plaza Hotel in San Jose, Calif., was organized by Eye for Energy.