“At stake are billions of taxpayer dollars, tens of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions and thousands of hectares of Kosciuszko National Park” says Executive Officer of the National Parks Association of NSW Gary Dunnett.
Announced in 2017, the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro-electric storage project has been promoted as the best option for providing energy storage for the National Electricity Market (NEM).
However, the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has conducted the first independent, expert analysis of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro-electric storage project’s claimed benefits in comparison to available alternatives. Prepared by Australian energy executives and analysts, led by Ted Woodley, former CEO of Energy Australia, PowerNet and GasNet (Vic) the report signals that the project’s benefits are grossly overstated in terms of its energy storage capacity and environmental impact.
Low Energy Emissions?
Snowy 2.0 will incur 50 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions from its construction and first 10 years of operation. Even when Snowy 2.0 only pumps with renewable energy, which will occur when, or if, the grid transitions away from coal-fired power plants, will always lose 40% of the energy stored through the pumping/generation cycle and network losses – far greater than other storage options.
Snowy 2.0 is in a disadvantaged location for a pumped hydro facility. Located 500 kilometres from a load centre, Snowy 2.0 requires major transmission upgrades which will incur far greater network losses than other storage options. The project is also vulnerable to transmission outages and constraints, as evidenced during the recent bushfires.
Reduced energy prices?
Snowy Hydro and the Commonwealth Government have claimed: “Snowy 2.0 will reduce electricity prices”. However, a report issued by Snowy Hydro itself shows that prices will increase, not decrease, as a result of Snowy 2.0.
There are many viable alternatives for energy storage, including other pumped hydro sites, batteries, and demand response projects. The NPA claims Snowy 2.0 is the most environmentally destructive, polluting, inefficient and expensive energy storage project available. Further, Snowy 2.0 runs counter to the trend away from large power stations towards a decentralised National Electricity Market of multiple generation sources and storages, particularly at consumer premises.
Snowy 2.0 would see the longest pumped hydro tunnel, at 27kms between storage dams, in the world. Conventional pumped hydro max out at 7-8km. The construction and operational costs, including the massive amount of spoil to be extracted dumped into existing storage dams, means this project has little economic or environmental credibility.
Snowy 2.0 has already been approved with $5.1 billion of contracts awarded. Construction has commenced without environmental impact assessments taking place nor has planning approval been granted. Executive Officer of NPA, Gary Dunnett claims that “The Commonwealth Shareholding Ministers should revoke the approval of the Business Case on the grounds of inadequate estimation of the costs and projected returns of the project to the Australian public.” Dunnet has called for the NSW Minister for Planning should refuse approval of the EIS on the grounds of inconsistency between the enormous scale and diminished benefits of the project against the National Park status of the development site.
“It would be tragic if Snowy 2.0 was constructed on the premise of claims that were never tested and later proven to be false. It is time to pause and undertake a comprehensive review by independent experts.” Mr Dunnet concludes “Snowy 2.0 should not have been contemplated in the first place, due to its substantial, permanent environmental damage to Kosciuszko.”
Callum Foote is a journalist and Revolving Doors editor for Michael West Media. He has studied the impact of undue corporate influence over Australian policy decisions and the impact this has on popular interests.