From Watts Up With That?
Essay by Eric Worrall
Snowy River from McKillops Road. By The original uploader was Tirin at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Berichard using CommonsHelper., CC BY-SA 3.0, link
As coal power operators respond to the new carbon tax by accelerating plant closures, Australia’s big battery, the Snowy 2 pumped hydro project, has just announced more cost and delivery time blowouts.
Power grid at risk as Snowy 2.0 finish date blows out
Angela Macdonald-Smith Senior resources writer
Updated May 3, 2023 – 10.27am
Snowy Hydro has advised that its troubled Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro storage project in NSW will overrun its already-revised $5.9 billion budget and may not be fully online until the end of the decade.
The latest delay, of as much as two years, looks set to intensify worries about the reliability of the east coast electricity grid as owners of coal power stations accelerate closure plans.
The federal government-owned company said it is working to “reset” the timetable and budget for the project with key contractor Future Generation Joint Venture, controlled by Italy’s Webuild.
One of the huge tunnel boring machines used at the project, a 2000-tonne machine named Florence, has been essentially stuck for months in soft ground, while a “depression” has appeared on the surface, 30 metres above where it is located. Work is under way to stabilise the ground to allow the machine to resume tunnelling.
Even when the Snowy 2 pumped hydro storage is complete, if it ever completes, serious doubts have been expressed about its viability as a giant renewable backup battery.
The following was published last year in the Sydney Morning Herald – Australia’s answer to the New York Times.
Five years on, Snowy 2.0 emerges as a $10 billion white elephant
By Ted Woodley
March 15, 2022 — 5.00am
Five years ago on Tuesday, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced, with great fanfare, the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project: “The Turnbull Government will start work on an electricity game-changer … This plan will increase the generation of the Snowy Hydro scheme by 50 per cent, adding 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market (NEM).”
Senate Estimates papers confirm the announcement was cobbled together in less than two weeks after the concept was floated by Snowy Hydro.
The nation-building vision was for a big battery to be added to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. It was to be completed in four years (that is, by last year) at a cost of $2 billion without any taxpayer subsidy, bring down electricity prices, generate renewable energy and incur minimal environmental impact on Kosciuszko National Park.
Inspiring stuff. But not one of these grand claims has turned out to be true. Worse, Australian taxpayers and NSW electricity consumers will be up for billions of dollars in subsidies and increased electricity costs, all while Kosciuszko is trashed. Let’s have a quick recap.
… Transmission tariffs in NSW will increase by more than 50 per cent if the NSW government allows Snowy Hydro to get its way, based on analysis in a Victoria Energy Policy Centre report.
Far from bringing electricity prices down, Snowy Hydro’s own modelling predicts that prices will rise because of Snowy 2.0.
As far as the claim that Snowy 2.0 will add 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market, Snowy 2.0 is not a conventional hydro station generating renewable energy. It is no different to any other battery, and as such it will be a net load on the NEM. For every 100 units of electricity purchased from the NEM to pump water uphill, only 75 units are returned when the water flows back down through the turbine generators. Not only is the electricity generated not renewable, Snowy 2.0 will be the most inefficient battery on the NEM, losing 25 per cent of energy cycled.
There are many cheaper, more efficient and far less environmentally destructive energy storage alternatives.
Australia has just advanced another step towards that green energy wall WUWT described. I think we can safely conclude Australia is aiming for a head first collision, at running speed.
Even if you believe the renewable energy fairy can deliver, Australia’s coal plant closure timetable was already looking terrifyingly tight. Australia’s newly introduced carbon tax just adds to the pressure to close coal plants, regardless of whether the green energy infrastructure meant to replace coal is ready.
Coal plant owners don’t have an obligation to keep the grid viable, their duty is to shareholders. Keeping the grid stable is the government’s responsibility.