Australia clears way for massive hydropower expansion
MELBOURNE, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Australia's conservative
government approved A$1.38 billion ($989.46 million) for a huge
expansion of the state-owned power generator Snowy Hydro to back
up wind and solar power, ahead of an election in which climate
and energy policy will be hot-button issues.
The A$4 billion expansion is needed to shore up Australia's
power supply as ageing coal-fired plants shut over the next few
decades. The plan was pushed by former Prime Minister Malcolm
Turnbull, who touted it as Australia's biggest renewable energy
project since Snowy Hydro was first built.
The announcement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison had been
widely expected, after the Snowy Hydro board approved the
project in December.
The government, split over energy policy as its right wing
backs coal, is eager to burnish its green credentials as it
faces challenges in key Liberal seats from independents pressing
for more aggressive action on climate change.
"The impact we're here to talk about today is a huge
investment in Australia's future. Not just our energy future,
not just our climate future, but our economic future," Morrison
said, speaking at the Snowy Hydro site.
Snowy will add 2,000 megawatts (MW) of power generation
through so-called pumped hydro, which acts like a huge battery,
pumping water uphill between two dams when there is cheap wind
and solar power on the grid, and releasing that energy when the
wind eases and the sun goes down.
"This will be one of the largest pumped hydro projects in
the world," said Morrison. "Which not only reduces electricity
prices and takes the pressure off electricity prices, but it
creates the reliability of electricity supply."
First output from the expansion, set to increase Snowy's
capacity by 50 percent, is expected in late 2024.
Snowy last year said the expansion was justified as it would
cost half as much as building the batteries and natural
gas-fired power plants that would be needed to prevent blackouts
in the mid-2020s, following the closure of some coal-fired
Snowy is fully owned by the federal government which last
year bought out the company shares owned by the states of New
South Wales and Victoria for A$6.2 billion to help smooth the
way for the expansion.
($1 = 1.3947 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Sonali Paul
Editing by Tom Brown)
© 2019 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved. Reuters content is the intellectual property of Thomson Reuters or its third party content providers. Any copying, republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon. "Reuters" and the Reuters Logo are trademarks of Thomson Reuters and its affiliated companies.