NPA supports Pumped-Storage Hydro, but not Snowy 2.0

Ted Woodley, Hon Treasurer, National Parks Association of NSW

On 15 March 2017, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced that his government “will start work on an electricity game-changer … Snowy Mountains Scheme 2.0 … adding 2,000 MW of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market …making renewables reliable, filling in holes caused by intermittent supply and generator outages … enabling greater energy efficiency and … ultimately mean cheaper power prices.”

Who could disagree with that?
NPA supports pumped hydro-electric storage as one means of storing renewable generation. But it cannot support Snowy 2.0, due to its significant and permanent detrimental impacts on the unique alpine environment of the Kosciuszko National Park (KNP), including:

  • dumping a over 7 million cubic metres of excavated rock from the 27km tunnel connecting the two reservoirs and underground power station. (The quantity of spoil would cover a football field to a height of 1.5km). Some of the rock spoil is expected to be acidic.
  • clearing a 100m wide, 10km long easement through pristine alpine bush for two sets of high-voltage transmission towers and lines.
  • widening and upgrading 30km of roads, some through sensitive environmental areas.
    clearing 200ha at Lob’s Hole for an accommodation camp, construction site and rock dump (the public will be excluded from the area for some years).
  • transporting noxious and non-native fish from Talbingo up to Tantangara Reservoir and thence throughout the Snowy Scheme and its downstream rivers for thousands of kilometres to the sea.
  • far more frequent and rapid fluctuations in Talbingo and Tantangara Reservoirs. Tantangara will be emptied in as little as 7 days (and then re-filled), having a devastating impact on the flora, fauna and aquatic species, and also on recreational usage and amenity.

National Parks and other protected areas are the primary means for safeguarding our biodiversity for future generations. Less than 10% of NSW is protected from man-made encroachment and development.
Kosciuszko is one of Australia’s premier National Parks, being the largest in NSW and part of the national heritage listed Australian Alps, encompassing a unique alpine environment. The detrimental impacts of Snowy 2.0 come on top of continual encroachment and damage to KNP, from feral horses, infrastructure and tourist developments, horse riding and mountain bike trails, weeds and invasive species.

The Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for Snowy 2.0 has been divided into 5 stages. Only the Exploratory Works EIS has been issued at this time, with the other 4 stages for the full hydro project and 3 electricity transmission lines to be released later. This incremental approach avoids a single overview and comprehensive assessment of the whole project.

Also, the Exploratory Works EIS does not provide an assessment of alternative schemes, as is required under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Regulation 2000. Other potential pumped storage schemes, using dams, tunnels and power stations, may have less environmental impact. Also, a recent audit by the Australian National University identified 8,600 potential sites in NSW/ACT with a combined storage capacity of 29,000 GWh, compared to 350 GWh for Snowy 2.0. It is incumbent on Snowy Hydro Ltd to examine alternatives to Snowy 2.0, especially in view of its very adverse environmental impacts on Kosciuszko National Park.

Beyond KNP, a recent audit by the Australian National University identified 8,600 potential sites in NSW/ACT with a combined storage capacity of 29,000 GWh, compared to 350 GWh for Snowy 2.0. No doubt many of these options will not be viable, but some are likely to be commercially and environmentally suitable.
NPA will continue to advocate for the protection of National Parks and the development of alternative pumped hydro-electric storage schemes with far less environmental impact.

View the full Exploratory Works Environmental Impact Statement report:

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.