The New South Wales government’s Minister for Planning has declared the $300 million Shoalhaven Hydro Expansion Project Critical State Significant Infrastructure (CSSI) because of its importance to NSW’s future energy security.
Origin Energy proposes to expand the existing Shoalhaven Pumped Hydro Scheme from 240 MW to 475 MW and produce enough power for about 80,000 homes.
The proposed 235-MW upgrade involves the construction of a new hydroelectric power and pump station and ancillary infrastructure, which would be largely underground and located between Fitzroy Falls Reservoir and Lake Yarrunga. The existing Shoalhaven pumped storage plant, in the Southern Highlands region, has been in operation for more than 40 years.
The project is essential to NSW for economic reasons and will have environmental and social benefits by facilitating the state’s transition to a low emissions-based economy, the government says. It will also add increased competition in the electricity market, putting downward pressure on prices and creating around 350 jobs during construction.
The project will still be subject to detailed community consultation and a full and thorough environmental assessment in accordance with NSW Government policies and standards.
Origin is expected to lodge two applications for the project, one for exploratory geotechnical works to inform the design of the project and the other for the expansion of the existing Shoalhaven scheme.
Origin will now request assessment requirements for the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for the exploratory works application. When received, the EIS will go on exhibition for community feedback. After the consultation period ends, the applicant will prepare a Response to Submissions report, which will be made publicly available on its website.
The department will then assess the proposal, taking into account environmental, social and economic impacts; all community and stakeholder submissions received during exhibition; and advice from government and independent experts. The department’s recommendation, including any conditions, will then be referred to the NSW Minister for Planning for a final decision.