INNISFAIL – Varme Energy’s drive to make Innisfail a leading provincial marketplace for the new but potentially lucrative waste to energy (WtE) industry achieved an important milestone this month by securing a letter of intent from the Town of Sylvan Lake along with increased interest from other major regional municipalities.
Earlier this month, Todd Becker, the Town of Innisfail’s chief executive officer, met with senior Red Deer County administrative officials to talk about Varme’s bold plan to build a $200 million WtE facility in Innisfail; a move already made by Edmonton-based Varme, the Canadian subsidiary of Norway-based Green Transition Holdings that has extensive experience developing WtE facilities in Europe.
“We’re actively pursuing Red Deer County to have their waste processed within Innisfail’s project. There’s no official status or official public comment there but we have engaged with Red Deer County,” said Sean Collins, the chief executive officer of Varme.
Becker told the Albertan that while his meeting was the town’s first “official” discussion with Red Deer County about Varme’s planned $200 million project for the town and region the feedback was “positive".
“There seems to be light interest, knowing that they have just learned about the project. It was just more of an introductory conversation of who Varme is and what the town is hoping for with the project,” said Becker. “Ideally the county will see value in the project, which would then generate further conversations.”
Varme is also set to make a serious presentation pitch to the City of Red Deer’s council; a move being made, in part, to counter a recent administrative status report that said studies have shown that the thermal treatment of municipal solid waste is “typically based on unproven technology, is considerably more expensive, and generally introduces additional risk to city business.”
“We found that to be curious sort of language to use. There's been over 1,600 waste energy plants built in Europe, 85 operating in the U.S., (and) we've got multiple operating in Canada,” said Collins. “It has not been pulled off in Alberta, largely because the development efforts around coalescing all of the contracts have not come together.”
He said his company made a request in October to the City of Red Deer to make a full presentation on Varme’s WtE technology and is hoping that can happen within a month.
Collins plans to give council a presentation about the company's technology and its plans for Innisfail is receiving support from the Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce and Red Deer Polytechnic.
"Through Varme’s Innisfail project, the City of Red Deer’s participation will position itself as a catalyst for sustainable infrastructure projects that underscore its commitment to municipal climate and environmental action," said Scott Robinson, the chief executive officer of the Red Deer chamber in a letter to city council.
"The Red Deer and District Chamber of Commerce is in favour of this project and supports Varme Energy’s desire to ensure leadership at all levels of the city and other regional municipal councils are aware of their project and its benefits for now and into the future."
However, on Nov. 7 Rocky Mountain House town council decided to postpone a decision to sign a letter of intent with Varme until the town receives more "hard numbers" on costs, particularly waste hauling fees to Innisfail.
As for the potential of serving the Town of Sylvan Lake it could mean diverting 7,000 tonnes of annual waste to Innisfail’s proposed plant, which is being planned to handle 100,000 tons of waste annually, with Innisfail expected to provide about 4,000 tons.
Collins said serious talks with the City of Calgary are also ongoing, as well as other promising discussions with several other Central Alberta municipalities.
“We've got some that are at a verbal yes. We're just sort of going through the process of check offs and sign offs,” said Collins. “In November we should have at least one or two more announcements, and then across the region we've got active and healthy dialogue.”
Collins said Varme’s project plan is to have the interested municipalities signed up with letters of intent by the end of the 2023.