Snowy Hydro Is An Endless Money Pit!

The Snowy Hydro is a $12 billion pumped hydro project that connects two existing dams in the Snowy with a tunnel, to allow excess power generated by industrial wind and solar sources during the day to be used for pumping water up the hill into the top dam, where it can be released to provide hydro power for the evening and morning peak periods. 

This sounds like a reasonable idea except, the cost started at $2 billion when announced by Liberal PM Malcolm Turnbull in 2018.  It's now $12 billion and that's not including the cost of the transmission lines to take the power into the national grid, which is $14 billion at the least. I expect the final cost will more likely be $20 billion. 

Additionally, the project itself and the transmission lines are being built through undisturbed National Park, which will be permanently scarred. 

This project will generate 350,000 MW/h of power per annum, providing revenue of $30 million a year at current rates, which suggests they expect electricity to become much more expensive. This means the project will not recover it's capital cost and is likely to run at a loss every day it operates. 

The same machinery that is used to pump water up hill and the same "headrace" tunnel used for that purpose, is the same tunnel that brings the water down and generates electricity. This means the facility can't pump water up and generate electricity at the same time. 

So, while it's true that the generator has a capacity of 2,200 MW, it doesn't maintain this output all day. As Snowy Hydro admitted during my questioning, they aren't actually generating new power; they're simply time shifting existing power. This project has encountered delays due to drilling mistakes and now faces serious obstacles to completion. 

Why are we throwing good money after bad on this boondoggle? The reason is that without pumped hydro acting as a "big battery" to transfer expensive, unreliable wind and solar power from the day (when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing) to the night and early morning when it isn't, the grid will never survive. Evening and morning peak hours will be in darkness - every day. In renewable energy terms, pumped hydro "firms" wind and solar. 

They have to build Snowy, regardless of the cost.