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Turnbull drives stake through heart of fossil fuel industry

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Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced his desire to spend $2 billion on a 2GW pumped hydro scheme in the Snowy Mountains, in a move that will potentially drive a stake through the heart of the fossil fuel generation industry in Australia.

The move – which is subject to a feasibility study by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, and funding agreements from Snowy Hydro’s three government owners (Federal, NSW, and Victoria) – could be the most significant intervention in Australia’s energy markets in half a century.

By promoting pumped hydro, Turnbull is effectively signing the death knell for any new coal or gas fired generation built by the private sector, and is paving the way for a 100 per cent renewable energy grid, driven mostly by wind and solar.

It also makes a reported and belated push for nuclear energy from members of his Coalition entirely redundant, because it would remove the need to rely on “baseload” generation over the medium to long term.

Assuming this does go ahead at the scale advertised, the conversation around energy delivery will now shift from “baseload” to flexibility, and gas and coal will no longer be able to compete, on either cost or utility, over the medium to long term.

Indeed, the biggest beneficiary of this push into pumped hydro could well be solar PV and wind energy, which are now the clear leaders in energy costs, with further sharp falls ahead.

And new generation is needed to replace ageing coal and gas generators, and meet new demand from growing population and electric vehicles.

By adding pumped hydro, and distributed battery storage (in homes, buildings and in EVs), Australia can reach a 100% renewable energy target, possibly within a few decades.

The ANU’s Andrew Blakers, who last month released an analysis that showed Australia could reach 100 per cent renewable energy with solar, wind and pumped hydro, at a cost of around $75/MWh – cheaper than current wholesale prices – describes the move as a game changer.

He estimates that once this scheme is completed, Australia will be nearly half way to having enough pumped hydro and other storage to support a wind and solar grid.

“A 100 per cent renewable energy grid will require around 450GWh of storage,” Blakers told RenewEconomy.

“Pumped hydro is by far the cheapest in the wholesale market,” he says. But around half the storage needed will come in the form of battery storage ‘behind the meter’, paid for by homes, businesses and electric car owners, and through demand management.

“It’s game over for gas, it’s game over for nuclear. Solar PV and wind have won the race,” Blakers said. It also makes life difficult for proposed solar thermal and storage technologies, unless they can compete in areas unsuitable for pumped hydro.

Australia already has around 2.5GW of pumped hydro, mostly in the Snowy Mountains, but also at Wivenhoe and Shoalhaven. This new initiative is to be formally announced by Turnbull in the Snowy Mountains on Thursday, but was widely distributed to the main papers overnight.

The idea is to pair the huge Tantangara and the Talbingo reservoirs. Because the dams already exist, the cost of the pumped hydro is much reduced. The $2 billion will be spent on tunnels, power stations and poles and wires to connect it.

Indeed, there is nearly enough water in these reservoirs to provide enough dispatchable power to meet a 100 per cent renewable grid.

But no grid can put all its eggs in one basket, or in one location. So more storage capacity needs to be built in different places, such as the proposed pumped hydro plant at the Kidston gold mine in Queensland, to be paired with a solar power plant to push the water uphill.

Blakers says around 6GW more of pumped hydro will be needed, assuming that battery storage and demand management accounts for the rest.

Blakers says that pumped hydro is by far the cheapest form of storage, although it does rely on price volatility – the cost of pumping water uphill, minus 20 per cent losses, needs to be overcome by the cost received. In that sense, the building of such a scheme almost assumes, or at least relies on, more wind and solar being built.

Pumped hydro, however, cannot compete in smaller arrays, which leaves battery storage and other technologies to compete at the “distributed” level – say around 10MW to 20MW.

This will be important because storage needs to be distributed around the grid, lest a problem occur with the huge interconnectors.

That means that new locations will need to be found for other pumped hydro across the grid, along with storage.

But much of this storage required will be installed in homes and businesses, and if the EV revolution takes of, that could potentially provide 400GWh on its own – 20 million cars by 45kWh – as long as that capacity can be harnessed and controlled.

But it probably means that the scale of battery storage will be limited, and distributed – its focus will be on super-fast response services, distributed grid and peaking response, grid augmentation, and behind-the-meter storage. It will still be a huge market.

Turnbull, who reportedly spent an hour on the phone to Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk on Sunday, has been talking the storage game for a few months, although his attacks on wind and solar appear to be entirely political rather than constructive.

turnbull tesla

But in rolling out this scheme, at a cost of $2 billion, and with possibly 2GW of storage, he appears to be saying to Musk and his Tesla Powerpack: You call that an energy storage device? This is an energy storage device.

Another side benefit of the pumped hydro scheme is that it means that over the medium-term at least, once this is built after 4 or 5 years, it takes the pressure off any gas shortfall.

It was notable that the most immediate negative responses came from two commentators with strong ties to the gas industry.

Ex-Origin man Tony Wood, now at the Grattan Institute, said it was “no panacea”, while Danny Price, from Frontier Economics, and the architect of the Emissions Intensity Scheme, dismissed it as a “thought bubble”.

Wood said pumped hydro was “vulnerable to drought”, but this ignores the fact that pumped hydro circulates a closed-loop water supply. The bulk of the remaining Snowy Hydro, which is not pumped hydro and relies on run of river, is exposed to drought, because it depends on rainfall, allocation to irrigation and environmental support.

The Clean Energy Council welcomed the move, saying it would boost the flexibility of Australia’s energy system and could “open the floodgates” to the greater use of renewable energy such as wind and solar in the future.

“Pumped hydro is a perfect complement to renewable energy like wind and solar and other forms of storage that are becoming much cheaper with each passing year,” CEO Kane Thornton said.

“The prime minister’s announcement of Snowy 2.0 appears to focus on increasing the ability of hydro power to meet peak demand, a role gas has traditionally played in the market.

“But with gas becoming increasingly expensive, it’s important to explore other technologies and solutions – such as batteries and pumped hydro – as viable alternatives.”

Still there are obstacles. One might come within the Coalition itself, once the fossil fuel lobbyists realise what’s the implications will be. Even energy minister Josh Frydenberg talked of storage “dare I say it, with renewables” without appearing to understand what it meant.

Not everyone was impressed, however. Labor spokesman Mark Butler dismissed it as a stunt for a “feasibility study into an unfunded project” designed to fund  up to “2,000MW of new storage, not new generation,” as though that were a really bad thing.

He also pointed out that funding for the project is to come from ARENA, the “Labor established agency the Abbott-Turnbull government has repeatedly tried to abolish. In fact, Malcolm Turnbull himself voted twice to abolish ARENA.”  

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  • George Darroch

    This is huge. The last couple of months have seen a massive shift in our electricity landscape.

    I’m very interested to know who will own and operate and thus profit (or not) from this facility.

    • George Darroch

      Answer above. NSW, VIC, and the Commonwealth. The first supports renewable energy and the second supports the Federal Government, so it shouldn’t encounter difficulties.

      • Kevan Daly

        I agree, but you can never take Daniel Andrews for granted.

  • chrgordon27

    Pretty spectacular intervention by Turnbull that should slap down Matt Canavan and the coal hawks for while.
    Snowy Hydro (the company) must be frothing at the bit to get into it.

    • JoeR_AUS

      Agree, Good News for Cooma and business involved

      however we are not out of the wood yet, esp if you realise that the population target for 2050 is 42m

  • Isn’t the federal government a minority shareholder in Snowy Hydro? It will be interesting to see how this gets funded.

    I’m not sure I agree that this massively disadvantages the old 24×7 players however. Snowy Hydro has typically run as a seasonal generator and fast-start peaker. Operating as per the current project, it will have a capacity of 10% to 15%. Adds about 1.8m to 2.7m LGCs into the supply every year once construction is completed.

    Adding more pumped storage will effectively allow it complete power over the operation of the the VIC/NSW interconnector. It will obviously smooth out intra- and inter-day volatility, making the business case for batteries more difficult (risk-free arbitrage is great until it’s gone). I’m not clear what effect it would have on the business case for a base-load generator.

    Cheers.

    Dave P.

    • john

      I think VIC NSW and either the Federal Government or the ACT make up the 3 owners.
      I would say the Fed Government not the ACT.
      Getting agreement from both the other parties and funding may prove difficult.
      Regardless any pumped hydro and storage is a good move.
      I feel there is a need for a large number throughout the grid to enable the storage of excess energy from wind and solar and if the figure of $75/MWh is the outcome it should remove the number of hours where $300 and more are charged by the present players especially in Qld for instance.

      • JoeR_AUS

        quote

        The Commonwealth owns 13 per cent of the scheme, NSW 58 per cent and the Victorian government 29 per cent. Those state governments could also be asked to assist with funding the expansion.

        • john

          Thank you Joe.
          No doubt this will be another inter government stalemate.

    • stalga

      The Federal govt owns 13%, NSW the majority and VIC the balance. Howard wanted to privatise it but they backed down.

    • Mark Diesendorf

      Spot on, David, Snowy Hydro is peak-load. Contrary Giles’ statement, it does not, and will not, compete with, or substitute directly for, base-load coal-fired power stations like Hazelwood. However, it will help balance the fluctuations in wind and solar farms in NSW and Vic, thus enabling them to replace coal-fired power stations.

      • when did i make any reference to hazelwood?

        • Mark Diesendorf

          Apologies, Giles, if I have misinterpreted your dramatic clause “in a move that will potentially drive a stake through the heart of the fossil fuel generation industry in Australia”. My concern is that the Snowy 2.0 proposal will not necessarily reduce the pressure from the fossil/nuclear lobby for a base-load substitute for Hazelwood and other dying coal-fired stations.

  • Tom

    Love the concept, but I’m afraid I’m sceptical.

    Tantangara and Talbingo are both large storages, which is good. But they are about 30km apart, which is bad. They have about 650m of head difference, which is both good and bad. Good because it means that less volume of water needs to be pumped for the same energy storage than a lower head, but bad because it means the pumps will need to pump against a massive pressure head, and the pipes will also need to be massively strong particularly low down to cope with the pressure.

    There are higher head hydro stations in Australia – Poatina is highest, and Fisher and Murray 1 both come close. But water flowing down a pipe is a bit different from water flowing up a pipe.

    There’s going to be a lot of water resistance in the 30km between the two dams no matter how you construct it. It’s going to be a fair bit less than 80% efficient that Tumut 3 is for the up-and-down cycle, which means that the arbitrage is going to be less efficient.

    Building several dams with small storages dotted around Talbingo, each with about 300-400m of head, would be more expensive in building new dams and more environmentally destructive but once built I imagine they would be much more efficient than joining 2 dams 30km apart.

    The centralised nature of the generators/ pumps would mean massive transmission infrastructure leading to a region with very fickle weather.

    And if batteries get sufficiently cheap, the whole thing could be redundant.

    Anyway, better to have this announcement than not to – it will be very interesting to see where it goes.

    • Brian Tehan

      I think that pumped hydro and batteries are complementary technologies. Batteries are shorter term, faster reaction time, particularly to sudden loss of generation, whereas hydro allows for higher levels of stored energy.

    • Gilfedder

      Re: PS I had a similar idea for the current desal plant at the Gold Coast to add water to the Condamine River.

    • JoeR_AUS

      no expert, by using existing Dams there is no environment impact, just 3 tunnels to drill and utilising its own power to shift the water in off peak makes it attractive as it utilise existing infrastructure

      • Tom

        True.

        What I meant to suggest in that paragraph was that it would be possible to build multiple dams on the multiple minor tributaries of the Tumut river either side of Talbingo reservoir to achieve a similar pumped hydro capacity. The pipes would be about 2km long. The advantage of this would be that the up-and-down efficiency would be greater than having water flow 30+ km between storages. The disadvantage would be the cost of building the dams and flooding of what looks like some pretty bloody good valley forests.

      • Mark Diesendorf

        There will be some environmental impact on the national park from the new high-voltage transmission lines that will be needed.

        • JoeR_AUS

          True but to be positive

          As building anything has a impact but not as much as starting from scratch

    • David leitch

      That’s very informative detail. Thanks.

      1. Are you saying that the existing pumped hydro is 1.2X energy used to pump uphill compared to 1X electricity produced? That’s significantly better than Wivenhoe.

      2. My more general comment never mind the time and cost issues is that right now this is fairly carbon intensive. Ie the pumping energy comes from coal. That will hopefully change in the future.

      3. These best economics on these projects tend to be the day they are announced. That said I do note the Bogong project was more or less on time and budget.

      • Tom

        re. point 1 – Yes – for every 1MWh put into the pumps at Tumut 3 approx 800KWh is produced by that same water on the way back down. It’s about 90% efficient each way. Not sure where that reference is – I’ve been reading about this stuff for years, and I’ve got no idea what Wivenhoe’s round-trip efficiency is – I’ll try to find out.

        • David leitch

          I know what Wivenhoes round trip efficiency is. I wrote about it on this site only a week or two ago. Time moves fast.

          I’d add that 80% efficiency is very high by global standards.

    • Frank C

      650m of pressure head can be simply broken down by thhe construction of small stepping ponds.

      • stalga

        Would that reduce head loss due to friction?

        • Peter F

          It will probably actually increase the head loss because of entry and exit losses to the intermediate ponds. It might reduce the cost of the penstocks due to lower pressure but whether that would offset the cost of the intermediate storage is another matter. Also because of reduced inertia of the water column, the system may have have faster response which may be desirable but the very fast response is probably better handled by distributed batteries close to the generator or the load
          This is a really tricky optimisation problem and compounded by the fact that there are strong arguments for distributing the storage throughout the grid even if the capital costs are higher

          • stalga

            Thanks

    • GregX

      Hi Tom,

      Great post. I think we should definitely maximise use of this existing renewable resource. I especially like your desal option. This could help environmental flows to the Snowy River as well and soak up excess power from anywhere in the grid as you say. While we are at it, we may as well put floating solar farms on Lake Eucumbene and the other Snowy Hydro lakes, to provide renewable power for the pumping of the water back up the hill and to minimise evaporation. Those above ground concrete water pipes look horrible too so why not build solar panels over the top. This would help protect the pipes from the elements. As you said, we will also need to increase transmission power via towers from the area. Would it be possible to add wind turbines to the tops of each of these transmission towers and even a few solar panels pointing in the optimum direction. Lastly, we have a desal plant in Sydney doing nothing 99% of the time. Why not use it to also soak up any excess energy and pump the water 100 or so km up past Mount Victoria so it can run down into the Murray where they are always short of water.

    • Ben Courtice

      I don’t know if they currently do this anywhere, but you can reduce the massive pressure head for pumping back up by staging the pumping through small intermediate reservoirs. While overall pumping energy use might be similar overall in this scenario, the total load on any one pump or pipe would be unremarkable, making them cheaper and easier to engineer It would not increase the round-trip efficiency of the system of course.

  • Malcolm M

    This is the PM clutching at straws. Where is the analysis that this is the least-cost pumped storage in Australia when transmission investments are also considered ? When the existing power stations including the Tumut 3 pumped storage power station is operating at full capacity, they utilise all but about 400 MW of capacity on the Vic-NSW inter-connector. To be useful, this new power station would need at least another billion in network investments to take the power to Melbourne and Sydney. There are other good pumped storage sites near existing transmission infrastructure in the Latrobe Valley and the Hunter Valley. What was the process by which these were ruled out before the PM made this announcement ?

    • lin

      “What was the process by which these were ruled out”
      This process is called political arse-covering.

      • riley222

        Talking about arse covering, I hope Mal can survive the reaction from the neaderthal faction. Might even buy a tele today to help judge his chances.

        • trackdaze

          He has effectively wedged them. Costs less, takes about the same time to build as a similar scale coal plant.

          Popular enough with those that at a week moment may side with the coalition on fear but dont nessessarily agree with the coal is good for humanity BS.

    • George Darroch

      I’m very happy with this announcement actually. It supports the renewable transmission.

      • JoeR_AUS

        Agree, plus freeing gas helps to utilise Pelican Point #2 and averts SA spending 1/2 Billion

        • trackdaze

          It still leaves the issue of lack competition in SA for which the Gas Peaker and storage help to alleviate.

          • JoeR_AUS

            Pelican Point would be the gas peaker, as long its mandated that AEMO would need to deliver 100% demand and ENGIE would be bound to turn it on ie lowers the spot price or face a fine that makes it not optional

            It cannot be an option to not supply energy.

          • trackdaze

            Still got the issue of price peaks outside of the 4-72hours a year. This is where competition will suppress wholesale prices.

        • Mark Diesendorf

          This project would benefit its neighbours, NSW and Vic. It would have little benefit for SA and Qld, which are out on distant limbs of the NEM grid.

          • JoeR_AUS

            The Pelican Point Power Station is located at Pelican Point, 20 km from the centre of Adelaide, South Australia on the Lefevre Peninsula.

          • Malcolm M

            How would it benefit Victoria without also having to add the cost of transmission line upgrades to the project cost ? The inter-connector already needs a major upgrade before Victoria gets any benefit from the existing Tumut 3 pumped storage hydro, let alone the new one. So add an extra billion plus dollars for a high voltage DC link from outer Melbourne to the new Snowy pumped storage, and then a similar link from the new pumped storage station to Sydney, because the existing power lines are close to capacity when Tumut 3 is at full power.

            Or could this be part of Turnbull’s secret plan, kept from the right wing of his own party, to develop a high voltage DC network for balancing the output of renewable power ? A recent ANU study had a high voltage DC network between the eastern State capitals for balancing purposes.

          • Mark Diesendorf

            Malcolm, you have answered your own question. Of course the new transmission lines must be included in the cost, so the scheme will be much more expensive than the $2 billion claimed by the government.

    • Mark W

      We are in an environment where the quick announcement trumps the right announcement. Turnbull needs to get some control of the agenda, so he is making a “captain’s call”. Actually, while I think this probably should not have been the first cab off the rank, it is probably something that would have made it into the mix at some point, so not much harm done.

      I am becoming increasingly convinced that Turnbull is threading a course between the political right (who support the coal miners) and the left (who have worked out that a renewable electricity industry employs very few CFMEU and AWU workers). It is a dishonest hidden agenda and his engagement with the electorate is as atrocious as ever, but given his weak political position it may be the only way for him to get what he things is the right thing done.

      At least I agree with him that it is the right thing to do.

      • John P

        ‘First cab off the rank’ should surely have been ‘demand management’. Usually a cheap response and doesn’t take years to implement. The country’s domestic housing stock is appallingly energy inefficient.

        • Mark W

          Indeed.

          They are doing trials here in Qld of aircon units that obey ripple control and turn off thrir compressors (but noit fans) on signal from the distribution network. If fully implemented, then the network could turn off aircons for 15 minutes on a rotating basis to reduce load or turn them all off in a crunch.

          I am told that the trial participants say they are unaware it’s happening.

          • John P

            Sounds worthwhile.
            I’m happy for homeowners to use efficient heat pumps for both heating and cooling – especially if they are powered from the rooftop solar. But if people could be encouraged to beef up their thermal insulation, the demand would go down substantially.

          • Mark Roest

            And my brother in Folsom, near Sacramento and maybe almost as hot as you get in summer, swears by his whole-house fan, which soaks coolness from the night air into the building all night, and shuts off during the day.

          • Rod

            I don’t know why whole house fans haven’t taken off here. No pun intended.
            I would think Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth get average overnight temps to make it worthwhile.

          • John P

            Exhaust fans have a good track record and work well as long as the replacement air is cool enough. Installation costs are modest as well.
            Best wishes to your brother in Folsom.

          • Rod

            Now that I think of it, many in Australia have Evaporative coolers on their roofs (you call them swamp coolers)
            Many of these can be set to exhaust rather than cool. Suck not blow.
            However their energy use is supposed to be so low that most will use them for cooling overnight.

          • stalga

            They work very well in dry climates.

      • Mark Roest

        Re “Turnbull needs to get some control of the agenda, so he is making a “captain’s call”.” I agree, and I think I agree with it going first, because of what is happening in the US and the UK with the fossil industry fighting politically tooth and nail against the renewable energy industry. This can help break the spell of the fossils’ perceived power, and help expose not only their nakedness, but the pox all over them and ruination all around them.

  • solarguy

    I’m a bit sceptical about the PM’s announcement, seems out of character. Smoke screen?
    Can someone tell me how much electricity the nation chews through per day on average?
    Blakers is saying we need 450GWh of storage for 100% RE. Ok, but how long will that last in worst case scenario?

    • solarguy

      Up date. If I have crunched the numbers correctly, Australia consumes 630GWh per day. Now if we require all our road transport to be electric in the future, 450GWh of storage may not be enough for even one day, if bad weather constrains RE generation!

      • trackdaze

        Bad weather is typically windy, rainy or both.

        • Dean Rizzetti

          I don’t think Solar Guy was talking about the plesantness of the weather.

          It’s a fair question of how we cover our total demand but perhaps a little unfair to say that one project doesn’t solve all our storage needs and is therefore insufficient. This will need to be built on with behind the meter tech and perhaps more pumped storage.

        • solarguy

          But some times, rain and no wind or very low wind.

          • trackdaze

            Thats where a lot of hydro, battery, a bit of gas and a very light sprinkling of coal comes in.

          • solarguy

            I mostly agree, but not with the coal in the long term. As for gas it needs to be biogas only in the long run.

          • Zane Alcorn

            Anyone got a satellite photo of the last time the entire continent of Australia was completely covered with super dense cloud and there was also zero wind across the whole continent? Pls copy and paste link k thks 😉

    • Ren Stimpy

      Progress on solar is only a few years away from getting to the point where low cost and higher efficiency will enable a fairly solid total energy return even on cloudy days. On pouring-down rainy days we’ll of course depend on our storage.

      • solarguy

        I’m hearing you Ren, the trick will be how much utility scale PV oversizing v’s cost will be the right balance, as we won’t know how much roof top PV & storage there is likely to be in long term.
        I’ve designed my homes PV to be 38% oversized from what I normally would need for iffy weather. Battery storage enough to keep us out of the shit for 4-5 days, with any excess going to the grid on good days and there will be plenty of that.
        Not to many will be able to afford to do the same as I have. When considering large scale PV, too much oversizing will be a waste of money as when the storage is full and no other loads to service, the power will go no where.

        • Ren Stimpy

          “the power will go no where” – that’s not a worry now or for the next five or ten years. What we do with surplus renewable grid power will not be a problem for the next five or ten years from now. It will all be used.

          Personally I think we need to make (for example) surfboards with it. To export to the globalised countries like Vietnam who will have grown their middle class via globalism and they will then have a large demand for our extremely good surfboard manufacturing. For example.

          • hydrophilia

            Throwing away the excess power may be cheaper than having the storage required for perfect balance. For example, if one can oversize by 20% and reduce storage by 50%….

            Optimal systems will use generation, transmission, storage, and flexible demand. Best mix is danged complex, but far smarter and cleaner and cheaper than biz as usual.

            Please do not hold me to these numbers as I have just pulled them out of thin air, but the principle is sound.

          • Ren Stimpy

            I think you make a good point. The activity/economy and its efficiency plays a factor in energy usage. We can save a shit load of money if we really want to try!

            The optimal systems which you have spoken about too. I am on board with them.

          • Ian

            You’re not throwing nothin away that wasn’t free and renewable in the first place. If the solar panels were not on your roof the sun would have struck the roof anyway. It’s the optimised system as a whole that is most cost, and probably manufacturing resource efficient. This would apply to a household and also to a whole country. In Australia we have a hellova long way to go yet before we can waste large scale solar.

          • hydrophilia

            Small scale example: I live aboard a boat, using 175 watts and 1kw.hr or storage. I could mostly get by fine with 75watts, but would need another couple kw.hr of batteries. The extra 100w panel costs $200 for 15 yrs vs $200+ for 3years for the battery storage (island prices!). Doubling the PV is VERY cost effective compared to increasing storage…. although one hates to see the power going unused.

          • solarguy

            In the future we will have surplus PV production for sure and that’s my point. It will have to be oversized so on overcast days we will have a good proportion of the load covered. The rest can come from wind, but it will need some oversizing too.
            Of course not all of the country will experience overcast conditions and so their excess can utilized, but it’s going to be tricky designing a national 100% RE grid and not over spend on generating capacity.

          • Zane Alcorn

            I think massive periodic surpluses of energy will be a necessary hallmark of 100% RE systems and you will see whole new ‘markets’ or industries developing in this space.

            We know system oversizing – including storage – accounts for certain times of the year when there are the most cloudy days and the least wind. However there are other parts of the year where a 100% renewable system could be expected to reliably and consistently be producing lots of excess power that will otherwise just be lost to curtailment.

            All the storage systems are full and yet the fleets of solar PV and solar thermal arrays are still pumping out power and enough of the wind farms are banging out alot of power- what happens to this surplus?

            One possibility is that there may be industries that decide to run on a 24 hour roster during the months of the year when there is an oversupply of power available (meaning super cheap electricity) and then ramp back to 9-5 production during the months when output is more or less matched to demand.

            Perhaps energy intensive processes like making hydrogen from electrolysis could be scheduled for times when there is a relative abundance of generation (noting that hydrogen is a tricky thing to store, so there are problems with this specific example). An interesting space to watch.

          • Ren Stimpy

            a) It will almost certainly be the case that most homes, businesses and other buildings will have a low cost battery, and that they’ll maximise their roof coverage of low cost solar and that that generation will integrate with their battery.

            b) Solar farms and wind farms will all probably install an on-site grid-scale (low cost) battery, which will help them to ensure/smooth supply when the array is generating and to ‘pinch hit’ for a few segments when the system is not generating. But I don’t think we need to worry about oversupply for some years yet.

          • Ren Stimpy

            In fact oversupply is already happening now with ‘spinning reserve’. What is the cost of that when added to our power bills?

        • Mark Roest

          Someone calculated (maybe 2 decades ago?) that if we put solar over all the roads and parking in the United States, we could power the entire economy. I don’t know for sure, but my guess is that you would not need all your roads to do the same, as sparsely populated as you are. There is a structural system that would be just the ticket to hold the racks up cheaply and well.

        • Ian

          I don’t think you would be an isolated example of a household over sizing the Solar PV to take into account the iffy weather. Why not, solar PV is relatively cheap. For you , maybe , you get more value for your dollar spent by building excess generation capacity rather than building more ( and expensive) battery storage to tide you over for the wet days. That makes good engineering sense. The thing is, that when battery storage becomes cheap you will be well placed and tempted to install more storage, then your investment could be used for time-shifted energy exports to the grid, if the value of that is recognised in future feed-in-tariffs. Your system could also evolve to include an EV.

          • solarguy

            Well no I never thought that I would be an isolated example. What I mean is that, this system I have is damn expensive for the average family to consider forking out for, $50k retail installed. I got everything at wholesale and installed it myself.

            The PV array is big enough, that on a bad day (rain) can provide 6-9kwh and the battery bank can supply 36kwh usable. That’s 15-18kwh/ day we can use over 4 days.

            On a hot sunny summers day the PV can produce 56kwh, but we may use 40kwh in 24hrs when it’s 42c during the day and 30c overnight and the AC’S are used. In that scenario the battery is only discharged 50%. But a decent amount of sun is need the next day to charge the battery bank.

            On days when it’s not as hot and the AC’s aren’t all needed, when the battery is fully charged, excess, some times as much 20kwh is sent out to the grid. That pays for the SAC charge easy.

            I would like to get an EV some day, but we will need more PV.

    • Calamity_Jean

      If by “worst case scenario” you mean a day when it’s cloudy and windless simultaneously all over Australia, then the 450GWh will last less than a day. But over a place as big as Australia, will there, CAN there, ever be a sunless windless day everywhere at once?

      • solarguy

        No not everywhere at once, but consider that at times huge parts of the eastern seaboard can be covered in cloud and consequently PV production will be way down and those events can last for days. Now wind could save the day, but might not be enough. So either we have a hell of a lot of storage or use stored biogas.
        If we have many EV’s in the future that will suck down plenty of GWh, so no I don’t think they have modelled enough storage.

        • David Osmond

          Blakers’ study at the link below. Note that they modelled using 5 years of wind, solar and demand data, so they’ve already done a pretty good study of how bad things can get in terms of poor wind and solar resource. They suggest they want to increase this to 15 years of data in a future study.

          It appears that Turnbull is suggesting that Snowy Hydro 2.0 will involve about 300 GWh of storage.

          http://energy.anu.edu.au/files/100%25%20renewable%20electricity%20in%20Australia.pdf

          • solarguy

            Yeah I know how they used 5yrs of data. 1. I don’t think their thinking of a future 100% electrified transport scenario though i.e. cars, trucks and trains. Thanks for the link. I ‘ll have a read when I get time.

          • David Osmond

            You’re right, they assumed current NEM demand of ~205 TWh. They mention electrified transport would add 30%-35% to annual demand. However much of this would have some degree of flexibility, so I don’t think you’d need to increase storage also by 30-35%.

            Note that the ANU study had over 90% of electricity coming from wind or solar, which is why they needed a large amount (450 GWh) of storage.

            In contrast, AEMO’s 100% study (scenario 2), had 70% from wind and solar, with a much larger amount from dispatchable biomass, so only needed 100 GWh of storage (despite modelling a larger demand of 290 TWh)

            UNSW’s 100% study was in between, getting ~88% from wind and solar, and required 200 GWh of storage (also ~205 TWh of demand).

          • solarguy

            I read the study and the biggest thing that stuck out was, they have only modelled for one day of storage. With my experience that’s not enough. They have also assumed that bio mass is severely limited, but it isn’t as there are great quantities of feed stock at every sewage treatment plant to make biogas. Millions of cubic metres of it.

          • JonathanMaddox

            They didn’t *model for* one day of storage, they modelled supply and demand and found that roughly one day’s worth of storage was optimal, given their other assumptions.

          • David Osmond

            Remember the ANU study also uses the existing 7+ GW of hydro to provide electricity when it’s not windy or sunny. Plus 0.6 GW of biomass. Plus big HV-DC interconnects to pass electricity from one state to another, so if one state is low on wind and sun then they could potentially get it from another. They then ran the model and determined that just 450 GWh of storage was required.

        • Calamity_Jean

          It won’t be a problem until your last coal-burner shuts down for good, how soon is that likely to be? By then batteries may be so cheap that you’ll have more than 450GWh.

        • JonathanMaddox

          EVs *are* storage. They won’t be trickle-charging 24/7, they can charge at known hours of high electrical energy availability.

  • brucelee

    The cynic in me sees this as a way entrench established interests by kicking the can 5yrs down the road.
    In the mean time renewable financing suffers due to REC futures plummeting, fossil companies continue their profits and have more time to pivot to renewables/batteries, reducing competition in the energy market. Then it will be privatised by selling to an incumbent.
    Other thoughts, does Network spending goes up again?? Or does existing gold plating absorb this new storage capacity.
    As another commenter said, full analysis this is the best project out there should published.
    We still need to push for market reform, and increased competition.

    • Steve159

      “kicking the can 5yrs down the road.” Exactly, by which time solar with batteries will see people going off grid in droves.

      All of which will likely see much of the current infrastructure underutilized, redundant.

      So, yeah Malcolm good delaying tactic. Meanwhile, SA and others will keep on keeping on, ’cause they see what’s going to happen irrespective.

      • trackdaze

        Fair enough. Irrespective of how quickly deployable and cheap solar and battery are it got to be good to have a divergent mix.

        • Ian

          There is a $2 billion opportunity cost to this scheme, it’s not coffee money, and if we don’t get this right then our ability to achieve 100% renewables will be kicked down the road 5, 10 or more years. There are other hydro opportunities. For one Tasmania has a lot of once through hydro – dams replenished by the rain. A similar system of increased generating capacity and a better basslink to the mainland coupled with optimised wind and solar in Tasmania could rival the snowy scheme in output and cost the same. Distributed pumped storage using existing reservoirs outside cities similar to the Wivenhoe PHEP, or new sites such as found on the northernNSW escarpment could be money better spent. Other storage technologies such as batteries. This is the very technology which sparked Malcolm’s announcement. The political oneupmanship could be better spent creating a rational , credible 100% renewables roadmap.

          • trackdaze

            I see this as part of a rational renewables roadmap.

            You couldn’t do 2billion in batteries now due further price falls. Best to do it incrementally following the cost and tech curve.

          • Ian

            Diversity in energy supply, transmission, storage, both according to type, scale and ownership and a multipronged load side management is possible now-a-days – why be lumbered with all our storage eggs in one basket?

            Exactly how much long term storage in GWH would this country need ( long term meaning a period of time when solar and wind resources are at a low yield for several days at a time. Cycling storage facilities for the daily fluctuations in generation and load-demand does not require much storage. The daily balancing of energy equations would require storage of a fraction of the energy produced by the various generators in the day, whereas the storage needed to supply days without adequate solar or wind resource would be multiples of average daily load/generation. More than likely an order of magnitude different. At the household level, this why a smallish battery can make the house energy independent for 90% of the time and hat-in-hand to the grid for the rest.

            The South Australian government may have recognised this difference between a smallish short term working storage and a long term standby generator in their announcement.

            The problem I see with a very large gas standby generator is the supply of gas. Why would any gas supplier be willing to bust their goolies for a very occasional large supply of gas and then be put on notice until the next emergency? They would much prefer to have a regular customer, daily using their product.

          • WR

            In southern Australia, the gas generators would see use for around half the nights in the year, predominantly from the beginning of April through to the end of August, and on some cloudy winter days. It probably wouldn’t be that different to how some peaking plants currently operate.

    • hydrophilia

      Could be a way to undercut SA storage project publicity, taking pressure of coalition…

      Set up better market rules, then let the market work!

  • Brunel

    How will the Snowy Hydro electrons get to Adelaide?

    UHVDC transmission line from NSW to SA?

    • trackdaze

      By displacement i would have thought. Victorians will have greater access to it directly which will inturn allow for greater exports accross its interconnector.

      • Brunel

        The interconnector is 3rd class and broke down a few weeks/months ago.

        • trackdaze

          Redundancy would be great it don’t need to come direct from snowy hydro though.

    • Mark Diesendorf

      The direct impact of the expanded Snowy Scheme on SA and Qld will be negligible. However, it will benefit NSW and Vic.

  • humanitarian solar

    The Snowy will be as useless as an interconnector if the poles and wires are blown over. Distributed storage with distributed generation is still the needed backbone of reliable grid/s.

    • Dean Rizzetti

      This works in concert with other forms of storage, not in place of it.

  • Nicko

    But doesn’t this argument rely on the power to pump up the hill being renewable?

    Will that happen under the Coalition, or will they angle for it to be supplied by coal and gas? Remember Canavan is trying to ram through new coal at taxpayer’s cost, Frydenberg was spruiking gas until the carpet was pulled by Weatherill etc etc.

    Not to forget their incessant deceitful campaigning against renewables, including by Malcolm “Renewables and storage are good for my house but not for anyone else” Turnbull.

    PS Forget the nuclear wits, except to note once again how chaotic the Liberal Party is with their announcement coinciding with another Liberal announcement that makes theirs irrelevant.

    • Nicko

      That is nuclear twits, not wits.

      Oh, and what about drought?

      • Calamity_Jean

        If there’s a drought the weather is sunny and your PV and solar thermal will be pouring out power.

      • hydrophilia

        Pumped hydro is better in droughts: it does not use up the water, but recycles it. Same as aquaponics vs agriculture…

        To preserve reservoirs from evaporation, shade water surface with floating PV…

        • Nicko

          Thanks, I did think it through afterwards. Also I noted Tony Woods said ‘what about drought’, so it had to be off beam!

  • Simon Holmes A Court

    thanks giles — i’m looking forward to hearing how much additional _net_ generation the scheme enhancement will add.

    does pumped hydro qualify for LGCs? (i assume that grid connected batteries do not, but there may be a loophole that allows PHES to claim LGCs on the downhill leg.)

    • Ian

      This extension to the Snowy scheme is fossil fuel laundering. FF electricity will fill the head reservoirs and renewables hydro generation will be discharged back into the grid. Check out Giles’s live generation widget if you think I am Talking BS, all hydro generation is lumped together and called renewable.

      • hydrophilia

        You are certainly correct in that hydro storage is far different than hydro generation, as different as burning nat gas compared to burning electrolyzed H2. It will be interesting to see how they account for it.

  • Miles Harding

    Great work, Giles.

    I have a slightly different take:
    Could it be that Elon Musk is actually behind all of this??

    Consider:
    The Model S is no longer trivialised by the major luxury car makers as they’ve been helpless to stop it stealing their market. It is now outselling both Merc and BMW in their overlapping markets.

    When the powerwalls were announced, the incumbents were alarmed by the PW1 and then panicked by the PW2 halving the price for the second time within a year. It was said at the time that this advanced the battery case by at least 5 years.

    The same seems to have happened with a 100MW battery system. We now have a coal loving LNP falling over itself to out-do Sourth Australia’s battery.

    • humanitarian solar

      Cmon getting a bit devotional.

  • Mark W

    Turnbull drove a stake through the heart of fossil fuel generation when he ruled out an EIS (against the wishes of big business I might add), but you along with the rest of the media were too dumb to see it at the time.

    Instead you jumped on the bone he threw at the press club luncheon about 2 weeks later when he talked about “efficient coal” and didn’t really pick up on his real agenda which came right after, which is storage, demand management and distribution. This despite the fact that “efficient coal” (and even “clean coal” which is different from the stuff he was talking about) was already a dead letter and everyone with half a brain knew it.

    The appointment oif Audrey Zibelman to the AEMO should have alerted the wise to this agenda, but only RenewEconomy even ran the press release (props to you for that at least) and absolutely zero analysis of what may well have been the most important energy policy decision of 2016 might mean was to be seen anywhere in the Australian media.

    Watch the ball, and don’t let your political prejudices cloud your judgement.

  • humanitarian solar

    As a community, it’s important a national response includes all Australians. Not everyone has the opportunity to install behind the meter renewable energy and storage, making those families vulnerable to current weather events and potentially being effected more and more each time a record is broken. The bottom 40% of the population has no wealth or negative wealth. The national data shows this part of the community is increasing. I think it’s one factor in the rise of populist politicians. I’m not sure this announcement creates grid security for everyone, though I acknowledge it appears to help a great deal and its a big winner for the environment. Finally we’re beginning to see some great leadership and bipartisan support for renewable energy at both the state and federal levels.
    http://theconversation.com/land-of-the-fair-go-no-more-wealth-in-australia-is-becoming-more-unequal-63327

  • Just_Chris

    “No New Power Generation Needed for next 10 Years”

    AEMO, 2014

    https://www.aemo.com.au/Media-Centre/No-New-Power-Generation-Needed-for-next-10-Years

    Now we need new clean coal, new hydro and new gas turbines. I think new hydro is a new brainier but clearly we need to have a pretty serious think about new generation is planned and what the actual energy demand will be in the next 10 years.

    • hydrophilia

      “It is hard to make predictions, especially about the future”

      I suppose that when they made the prediction that no new generation would be required, they forgot to account for malicious market manipulations and for political expediency. And many power plants take several years to go from idea to production, so now would be the time to get started for power in 2024…

  • Ren Stimpy

    OK Let me just say I like the general logic of this decision and the (hello!) balls of this decision ie give them credit for making a bold decision. It’s a step in the right direction.

    A closer examination (the detailed logic) might punch a few holes in it though. Hydro power is from one specific isolated location, is it not? What if the grid goes down to that one specific isolated location?

    Wouldn’t it be better to spend the $2 billion on distributed home and business and industrial energy storage? So that the storage is mostly distributed around the state, and if one particular grid line gets knocked out by a storm the whole state doesn’t get cut off from the total storage?

    Those damned flys in the ointment.

    • Ian

      So many nice comments, hopefully this $2 billion rabbit pulled out of the budget hat is fixed,firm and committed to be spent on storage. We have to hold Malcolm to that. He holds the keys to the financial red button. I’m not so sure he is the best engineer for the job though. He might have to Tweet Elon for some advise. Perhaps he can ask some questions like. Is a GW the same as a GWH? Does putting more pumps, pipes and turbine gensets increase storage capacity? How can we get this increase of power flow to and from the Snowy scheme without building more powerlines? If we shunt enough electricity through the existing interconnectors to SA , and they fail as has happened recently , could the resultant spark bridge the gap and keep Adelaide going? Elon might reply “batteries”. Will Malcolm listen to him?

      • hydrophilia

        This DOES increase storage capacity: if the new connection gives a greater altitude difference, you now store and release more power per liter.

  • howardpatr

    What about a plan for 2000MWs of PV in the Riverina Electorate to provide NEW energy to pump the water?

  • humanitarian solar

    I’d like to comment on Mal’s position, often having the conservative element of the Liberals to negotiate with because I think it influences future actions. On the surface, the conservative element may question what has happened, its consequences and the direction the country is going. I’m in the Greens. In my view, this makes Mal look as competent with the reigns of the country as anyone, possibly an unexpected outcome that may emerge in the awareness of Mal’s colleagues. The more the Liberals focus on effective government, the more it challenges Labor and the Greens, and anyone else, to have success in future elections. I see this as good government, and strengthening the Liberals as a party of governing in a responsive way, in the challenges the country finds itself. Ditto the SA government will appear competent, if it can meet it’s immediate challenges over the coming months. Political point scoring has fallen into the background and better government has been the result. It has taken an emerging emergency with grid security to reach this new cooperation, though it happened. Our PM has moved to address the shortcomings in the market, and his ability as a skilful and powerful troubleshooter over the last few days, able to get results with big business, has undeniably been demonstrated.

  • Mark Diesendorf

    Giles, please forgive a niggle about terminology, but to write about “2 GW of storage” is incorrect. The proposed scheme will provide zero additional storage (which is measured in GWh, not GW). Using existing storages, it will provided 2 GW of additional power during peaks in demand.

    • Ian

      Mark, this is an important point- check out my posts above – worryingly this investment will add nothing to the storage capacity that we need to tide us over extended and extensive cloudy windless days. It is very much centralised far from the points of renewables and fossil fuel generation and variable consumption, needing new transmission infrastructure. The failures in the SA electricity grid were transmission failures primarily and this scheme will do nothing for that. What is it actually going to achieve? Could this be a horrible blunder ,just because of a confusion between GW and GWH?

  • Mark

    The problem, of course, is that by the time the right wing nut jobs in the COALition have their way with this (probably by the middle of next week) it will all be just another of Fizza’s “good ideas at the time”.

    • riley222

      True . Given the Libs score so far, we better hope Labor steps up.
      Not holding my breath tho.
      If its to happen , it needs concrete action now.

  • pblakez

    very interesting art. Giles, I wonder at the time frames, how achievable are they?
    It would still mean 4-6 summers with fragile supply. Also seems the SA interconnect still a weak link.

    I would have thought more distributed Solar PV / Thermal with salt / lithium battery would be quicker, a better long term investment and more reliable?.

  • Mark Roest

    This reminds me of Kissinger going to China — a watershed event, most important in helping turn the tide against fossil fuels.

    It appears that Turnbull has been weighing the alternatives, and the differing presentations coming from all sides, and come to the conclusion that he can save the central grids by throwing fossil fuels under the bus in favor of pumped hydro. As a closed-loop system, and in a decisive political move, pumped hydro is a brilliant solution to his final priorities. Though Tom’s points appear to be very well taken, in terms of how to do the pumped storage.

    Within the 4 years it will take to get the big ones up, the levelized cost of batteries is likely to plunge to less than a penny per kWh. Disruption is coming!

    • humanitarian solar

      I thought you were into big business. Batteries. Being part of a fan club. Walking contradiction.

      “This information comes from SeekingAlpha’s Tesla threads, if you want to get it as it comes out, or go back and see what I’m writing about. Watch out for all the short-Tesla trolls trying to badmouth the brand! Tesla is going to be a 900-pound gorilla juggernaut!”

  • Durham 52

    Based on the track record of our current Pm, I’ll refrain from getting excited for now. Given the takedown of Fraudenberg by Premier Jay in SA, tomorrow might see the PM championing clean coal again! This sorry excuse for a government can’t be trusted on anything.

  • Richard

    Why has this idea suddenly come out of the blue!? I have not see Renew economy or Giles parkinson report on the potential of pumped hydro in the Snowy to solve our energy problems. Looks like the so called experts have egg on the face.

    I don’t trust Turnbull as far as I could throw him. This is just another one of his spruiking efforts, because he loves being popular so much it hurts.

    I doubt this will get past the feasibility stage once the dark forces within his government have gone to work on it.

    • humanitarian solar

      What I think is happening, is the WA election didn’t go so well with Hanson’s populist party rising on a populist tide, taking Liberal votes away, disturbing relations with the Nationals and generally creating discord. Even though WA isn’t a great test pilot transferable to a federal level, it does appear to put pressure on Mal to govern well. On the other hand, the Greens are hopeless at forming a coalition with anyone, so we don’t really know which of the right or left are more fractured. It’s going to be interesting if the Liberals fall apart over this supercharged storage issue, in view of it facilitating renewable energy and taking away a weak point to attack. Liberal party running out of options other than squaring up and delivering on leadership to fix the grid and the NEM. I’m wondering where the gravity of their consensus is on it all though. I noticed the Nationals leader in WA lost his seat after a few million dollar campaign against him attempting to raise more tax from mining. If the Liberals face the fossil fuel lobby they may lose political donations, whereas if they don’t fix the NEM they may lose the next election. Winning an election is more important so it appears the NEM is getting fixed in one regard or another. With their coalition weakening, Hanson taking votes, they can’t afford any additional lack of popularity.

      • Ian

        It is still a jack in the box smoke screen so that it takes the microphone away from SA Labor. I doubt whether it will be up and running by 2021. By that time we may find SA well on the way to 70% renewables.

        • humanitarian solar

          Oh well Giles will tell us what springs out of the supercharged hydro box.

      • Richard

        Yes, I agree the the WA election has put the wind up Turnbull, he is such a wind sock.

        He just loves being centre of attention so much, he couldn’t let SA/Wetherill get the quo dos over storage and he had to do something after a one hour long convo with Elon. So he announces a “feasability study” on an idea he hasn’t even floated with the major stake holders.

        That’s about as serious as it gets when it comes to energy policy with the Fed Libs. Because they don’t have a policy and they probably never will because they have a gutless, vain, hollow leader and the party is controlled by climate denying primates.

        • humanitarian solar

          I only read a small amount of political analysis, so all i do is have a go at discerning the quality of the politicians intention by looking at their focus and endeavoring to discern who it’s serving. I focus on the present not the past even though i agree past performance is usually a good prediction of future performance. So we’ll all be looking for some follow through and some sort of pumped hydro augmentation of existing infrastructure to emerge. Similarly we’ll be looking at the party’s consensus and if they are governing to fix the NEM and re-establish security of electricity supply. There’s no use being too critical as it creates hangups dulling the mind. It’s best to use a bare attention to keep identifying what’s happening in the present.

        • humanitarian solar

          Here’s another example. I’ve said above the Greens are hopeless at forming a coalition and the way Greens leaders use their attention and focus is largely ineffective. They use their intellect to look to the future with their policies and merely criticize other politicians from their position. They are stuck in their own discourse rather than using attention to focus on the national discussion. In other words they are stuck in their own cloud of thoughts, creating a disconnect with everyone else and therefore have a poor quality intentuon regards their commitment to the Australian people. Naturally, the media intuit they are disconnected and irrelevant to any debate and so they don’t get any media attention, so are powerless to transition from a protest party into a party of government. Im a Green and their emails to members attempted to fight the WA election by primarily yelling abuse about populist parties, here and abroad, they despise. We see their intention motivated and imprisoned by fear and resentment, lost to any debate by neglecting the timing of how the national debate unfolds. In this way, Turnbull is effectively on topic and commanding attention.

  • Alan S

    Who knows how much batteries will have dropped to by the time Snowy 2.0 is complete so comparing costs at this stage is a bit pointless. Also batteries can be located where needed to create mini grids and are portable if you don’t get it right first time.
    When I worked at T3 some 30 years ago, all the pumped energy was surplus from coal plants during evenings and weekends. Hopefully by now there’ll be significant wind and solar components from NSW and Vic.
    SA is 1000 km from the Snowy with two warring states and two interconnectors in series along the way so just like the Murray, we’ll just have to make do with what we’re left with. Despite M Turnbull talking it up and rubbishing SA’s initiatives I don’t expect there to be much in it for us.

  • Robert Comerford

    How do you do something that may be positive when you can’t mention carbon tax.
    You spend $20B of taxpayers money instead.
    I’ve got to admit it was a think outside the square moment for Malcolm.

  • Ian

    Turnbull’s announcement can be analysed on so many levels. Amazing the sequence of events that occurred: Musk’s cousin made some kind of glib announcement ,probably quite innocently, this was taken up by some Aussie billionaire who tongue-in-cheek challenged Elon Musk on social media site, EM then Shirt-fronted him with a serious-promise. Mike Cannon-Brookes then made a few billionaire’s phone calls to the Pollies. They in turn could not constrain their excitement at such a bargain. Plenty of political brownie points. Jay Weatherall with “100MW” battery storage, and for good measure (maybe to appease or to trump the FF brigade) $360 million gas back-up generator and now the big bull elephant throws his weight into the fray and announces a $2 billion Ace-of-Spades.

    These guys have watched too much Dragon-ballZ on YouTube. Evenly matched opponents with amazing healing powers battle it out. With each episode their destructive powers increase, but so too their powers of recovery – a type of hyperbole inflation.

    Do these guys really have $500million at the state level and $2billion at federal level to throw around on a whim? If they had so much cash at their disposal why the h-ll didn’t they use it more timeously as the original problems with energy transformation started?

    Never mind, let’s not look at a gift horse in the mouth and enjoy these energy storage wind-falls as they arrive. Perhaps as the fairy-dust settles and the practical realities raise their party-pooping heads the promised money will remain.

  • Ian

    Just to put a different perspective on the Snowy 2. It would be using existing dams and extending existing pumped storage infrastructure with newer tunnels, pumps and generators. This would be a typical pumped hydro storage. Energy from the grid will be expended in pumping water and then most of it recovered and returned to the grid at a more convenient time. The power output will be 2GW more than what already exists in its pumped storage form and the actual energy storage capacity will stay the same as before – no new dams. The existing hydro battery will not actually get bigger in terms of GWH it will just be able to empty and refill that capacity quicker. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not really increasing energy storage capacity.

    Another point: Musk has indicated that large scale battery storage could be produced around the $250/KWH range. How much will $2 billion buy? 8GWH. Lithium batteries have a decent cranking power and could discharge very rapidly so for a short spell you could get 8GW out of this or probably a lot more. The other nice thing about batteries is that they can be distributed . There is no need to beef-up transmission infrastructure, placing this battery power at the point of energy consumption or at the intermittent generation source can maximise the use of existing transmission lines. If some of this $2 billion was used as an incentive to household storage, the effect would be to leverage private money into buying a national storage “fleet” ie $200million incentive could affect an investment of $800 million. Further more storage can be used for a number of purposes.1. The minute to minute adjustment of the grid, 2. the daily cycling of renewables, and energy consumption 3. Long term storage over weeks and months. Hydro definitely has the edge on long term storage but the thing with long term storage is it does not need to have an extremely rapid power output. This brings us back to the design of this Snowy up-grade. It is to produce power more rapidly, improving its capacity for day to day cycling of energy, but makes no difference to long term storage – bummer.

    Given the above armchair analysis, one can come to a number of conclusions:
    1. Turnbull’ s team would have to be forgiven for confusing Power output with energy storage. GW vs GWH. Most people seem to miss this point.
    2. They are well aware of the difference between GW and GWH but cynically think the rest of us don’t.
    3. They are wanting to exploit pumped hydro to launder Fossil Fuel electricity. What I mean is this: hydro is renewable energy -ok. Recharge the dams using coal generated electricity and discharge renewable energy using hydroelectric turbines. -QID.

    A $2 billion treasure chest could help to build a ‘ gigafactory’ of our own. What’s that saying about teaching a person to fish and feeding him for life?

    • David Osmond

      It sounds like Snowy Hydro 2.0 will involve ~300 GWh of storage (Turnbull mentioned 2 GW of power for just under a week). If you assume they are able to drain ~70% of Tantagara (I’ve got no idea if this is feasible), sending the water ~650m vertically down to Talbingo, then this also gives a ballpark estimate of ~300 GWh. So that’s quite a lot more than 8 GWh of battery storage.

  • Adam Smith

    Well Giles you almost said something nice about Turnbull and the Coalition!

  • Robin_Harrison

    There is a huge possibility this is a diversionary tactic with the expectation of it being lost in the ideological bunfight of our adversarial political system for years, just like the climate change debate. Over 10 years with huge scientific support and that debate has only managed a ‘stand-around-muttering’ ideological stalemate.
    The other possibility is that Turnbull, for once in his life, is sincere. In which case, prepare for a new PM any day now.

  • Les Johnston

    Agree that pumped hydro needs an impartial review and the Snowy with existing dams provides a great opportunity. The extent of the electricity network means there is much opportunity for distributed systems to provide reliability well better than that of old fossil fuel plants which fail to start when needed.

  • Mark Diesendorf

    Another question of concern is how Snowy 2.0 would be financed. It may be OK to ask ARENA to fund a feasibility study, but to demand ARENA and/or CEFC to finance a significant part of this multi-billion project (possibly $4-6 billion including new transmission lines) would destroy ARENA’s and CEFC’s ability to support non-hydro renewable energy. Although Snowy 2.0 and off-river pumped hydro could provide short bursts of power (GW) to meet peaks in demand, they cannot provide significant quantities of energy (GWh) to replace base-load coal (e.g. Hazelwood in Vic.) and base-load gas (e.g. Torrens Island in SA). For this we need more wind and solar PV, balanced by dispatchable renewables.

    • solarguy

      I agree.

  • riley222

    Utopia references the snowy mountains scheme.

    https://youtu.be/n1TMpXhwcQw

    • Rod

      “Stop doing feasibility studies” LOL

  • Ben Courtice

    Tony Windsor pointed out on Twitter that Howard (or was it Abbott?) wanted to privatise Snowy Hydro. Perhaps that will be a sweetener for the right of the Liberal Party if Trumble goes ahead with this? Whether it will fly with the public, who by-and-large hate privatisation, is another matter.

    Also, when Professor Blakers says that pumped hydro will rely on volatility/high prices in the energy market, that is assuming we keep the current made-to-be-rorted NEM system. Which is a depressing assumption, however realistic, I must say.

  • Colin Nicholson

    So I’m a cynic too. Tantangara is on the Murrumbidgee which is in trouble with environmental flows. Talbingo is on the tumut, and feeds back into tumut at Jounana using the fall of the river (running the water through pipes) to drive the 1500mw of pumped hydro in tumut 3 that we hear so much about. Talbingo has tumit 1 and tumut 2 stations above it which are pure hydro. This is a good system as water comes from the tumut and is returned to the tumut. If you want to run the tumut 3 as pure hydro, then all you do is shoot yourself in the foot by emptying talbingo and now you need to wait for it to fill again from the tumut. I assume the tunnels of which malcolm speaks are to to get the water from Tantagara to a point close to and above Talbingo to minimise all the head losses – but are they?. Now if you run the proposed Tantangara as pure hydro, you starve the Murrumbidgee and Eucanbine. In fact the very flexibilty of such a system is what makes me uneasy. The tumut of course feeds into the murrumbidgee at Gundagai so you really can cause mayhem with irrigation if you want to

  • Andy

    Every day I look at the live generation graph but I never see any indication of Hydro power on the NSW bar graph. Does anyone have a record of Hydro generated supply/consumption esp during the recent heatwave conditions in NSW?

    • Andy

      Hang on – there it is for today 201 MW out of a total 7,919 MW, or 2.53%.

  • Bob Bruce

    Its a con. Apart from some wind power Pumped Hydro will be powered by brown coal from Victoria – with 30% extra losses.