Hydroelectricity in the Australian Alps - Protect Our Winters Australia

Hydroelectricity in the

Australian Alps

Hydroelectricity in the Australian Alps

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Hydroelectricity production in the Australian Alps will face reduced inflows as a result of climate change, due to reduced precipitation and ecological change in the catchment.

Increased frequency and severity of storms and bushfires as a result of climate change may damage hydroelectricity generation and transmission infrastructure.

There is pressure on hydroelectricity companies to transition from traditional hydroelectricity generation to pumped storage hydroelectricity, due to increased demand for energy storage technology as Australia transitions to a higher level of renewable energy. Transitioning to pumped hydro will increase the resilience of hydroelectricity generation as it reduces reliance on inflows.

Development of hydroelectricity in the Australian Alps has had devastating impacts on high country ecosystems. Further environmental degradation of the water catchment will have economic consequences for hydroelectricity generation, the Murray-Darling Basin, and alpine tourism.

Section Contents

  • The Snowy Hydro Scheme
  • The Kiewa Scheme
  • Impacts of Climate Change on hydropower in the Australian Alps

Summary

Despite facing reduced inflows and natural disasters, Snowy Hydro and the Kiewa scheme will also benefit from climate change driving government and private sector investment in energy storage systems. Closed loop pumped hydro conserves and recycles water, meaning the transition to pumped hydro will make hydroelectricity generation in the Australian Alps more resilient to climate change, as production will become less reliant on inflows. This also has positive socio-economic implications for the region, as the hydroelectricity sector is an important employer; Snowy Hydro employs over 1,900 people, with a further 2,700 for Snowy 2.0. However, with pressure to increase Australia’s pumped hydro capacity, and proposals by Snowy Hydro for Snowy 3.0 and beyond, it is critical that future proposals are closely scrutinised for ecological and biodiversity impacts, and NPWS are heavily involved from the start.

Recommendations

Future proposals for hydroelectricity expansion in the Australian Alps need to be closely scrutinised for ecological impacts. Biodiversity offsets must not be considered a blank cheque for development, particularly given the unique, fragile, and irreplaceable nature of high country ecosystems.

Land management agencies (NPWS and Parks VIC) need to be involved in any hydroelectricity expansion proposals from the start.

Loss of vegetation cover, wetlands, and Snow Gums is likely to reduce the quality and quantity of water in the Australian Alps. There is an opportunity for Snowy Hydro and AGL to enable critical ecological restoration work, removal of feral animals, and possible Snow Gum dieback responses.

Download this section

This page is a summary of the ‘Hydroelectricity in the Australian Alps’ section from the report Our Changing Snowscapes: Climate Change Impacts and Recommendations for the Australian Alps.

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