What you must do

Check if you need a permit, licence or registered exemption

If you burn, heat or digest waste to generate gas, heat or electricity you must have a pollution prevention and control permit, waste management licence or registered exemption.

Does your waste or sewage business need a permit, licence or exemption?

Comply with your permit, licence or registered exemption

If you burn waste, you must also comply with any conditions set by your environmental regulator under the waste incineration directive. For further information, see our guidance for waste incinerators

Good practice

Choose appropriate energy-from-waste technology

You can use different technologies to generate energy-from-waste, including:

Incineration, ie burning waste in an incinerator or furnace to produce electricity and heat.

Gasification, ie using heat to convert solid biomass into a gaseous fuel. Gasification produces a synthetic gas, syngas, which can be cleaned and used to generate electricity or steam.

Pyrolysis, ie using heat to break down waste without oxygen. Pyrolysis produces a synthetic gas, pyrolysisgas, which can be used to generate electricity or steam, pyrolysis oil and a solid charcoal-like product which can be used to provide heat.

For further information on burning waste, see our guidance for waste incinerators

You can also use anaerobic digestion to produce energy on a small scale. Anaerobic digestion uses bacteria to break down organic matter without oxygen in specially made digesters. It produces:

  • methane-rich gases that can be burned to generate electricity
  • a liquid and fibrous residue called digestate which can be used as a soil conditioner to fertilise land.

If you put waste into an anaerobic digestion plant the digestate you produce is also waste. You must apply waste management controls when you handle, transport or apply the digestate. For information about waste management controls, see our guidance on your waste responsibilities.

For further information on anaerobic digestion, see the website set up by government and industry.

AD -  Anaerobic Digestion

Comply with the quality protocol on anaerobic digestate in Northern Ireland

Quality protocols set out end-of-waste criteria for producing a product from a specific waste type. If you comply with the criteria, the product you recover is not considered to be waste so you can use it without needing to follow waste management controls. For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

The anaerobic digestate quality protocol describes how you can produce anaerobic digestate from biodegradable waste that is separated at the source from other types of waste. If you comply with this quality protocol you can use the anaerobic digestate you produce as a fertiliser, soil conditioner or material in land restoration.

GOV.UK: Anaerobic digestate quality protocol (Northern Ireland)

Incentives for energy generation

Green energy certificates

If you operate a small-scale energy generator you can save your business money by selling green energy certificates to energy suppliers or by using the certificates to gain exemptions from some environmental taxes, such as the climate change levy. The certificates include:

  • renewable obligation certificates (ROCs), eg for anaerobic digestion
  • levy exemption certificates
  • renewable energy guarantee of origin.

For further information, see the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) website.

GOV.UK: Renewable Obligation Certificates

Feed-in tariffs

You can sell any surplus electricity you generate from small-scale low-carbon electricity to the major electricity suppliers at a fixed rate to help offset the cost of installing plant. For further information about feed-in tariffs, see the DECC website.

GOV.UK: Smart Export Guarantee

Energy-from-waste grants

You may be able to apply for grants for your energy-from-waste plant.

In Northern Ireland:

DAERA: Grants and Funding

In Scotland you can search all funding options on the Find Business Support website

Find Business Support 

Further information on energy-from-waste

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