It is being reported that the Snowy 2.0 Hydro project has been given ‘critical’ status for NSW, fast-tracking its development, amid concerns it may skirt environmental obligations.

The ‘critical’ status means the project no longer has to go through as rigorous a planning process and will only require the sign-off of the NSW Minister for Planning, Anthony Roberts. However, there will still be some environmental and community impact investigations.

Mr Roberts said Snowy 2.0 and its transmission infrastructure upgrades were essential for the east coast’s energy security, and it was urgent to bring its development forward.

“An expanded Snowy Hydroelectric scheme will add around 2000 megawatts of clean power to our grid and further diversify and strengthen the state’s energy mix,” Mr Roberts said.

The Age reports that:

There has been mixed reaction to the listing by environmental groups, which support the project’s renewable energy capability but are concerned about the impact the development will have on the surrounding national park.

“Declaring the project ‘critical’ is a warning sign because it means that even if the Minister does a sloppy job or approval conditions are breached, the community cannot challenge the approval,” Nature Conservation Council energy campaigner Dr Brad Smith said.

“Given the environmental sensitivity of this area, construction of tunnels, power lines and a power station would inevitably affect irreplaceable natural landscapes and threatened species.”

A key outstanding issue is the question of where all the spoil from the new tunnels will be dumped. For obvious ecological reasons, this can’t happen in the park but transporting it out of the mountains will increase the cost of the project.

Meanwhile, ReNew Economy is reporting that

Snowy Hydro has moved to dispel some of the principal concerns around its ambitious Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, arguing that it will likely accelerate the uptake of wind and solar, and will not underpin the future of coal – despite an independent experts report suggesting otherwise.

In a briefing in Sydney this week, senior executives from Snowy 2.0 played down the suggestion made in the independent report from Marsden Jacob that Snowy 2.0 would result in more coal being burned because the presence of the 2GW and 175 hours of pumped hydro storage project.

One executive said:

Snowy Hydro has no interest in supporting coal generators and instead suggests Snowy 2.o would likely bring in an extra 400-800MW of large-scale wind and solar projects that would otherwise not be built – because of its need for cheap power to pump water uphill.

He says wind and solar provide the best opportunities to do that – such as in early morning (3am) for wind, and the midday hours for solar.

PHOTO CREDIT: Tourism Snowy Mountains