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No Hydro in Queensland's Renewable Future

Queensland's push towards renewable energy has been commendable, but recent developments in the energy landscape have raised some serious questions about the state's approach. In a recent article by David Leitch, aptly titled "Queensland has a great renewable future – but not with big pumped hydro," he lays out a compelling case against the Queensland Government's Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project.

The Renewable Energy Boom in Queensland

Queensland is undoubtedly a frontrunner in renewable energy adoption, with large-scale wind and solar projects in the pipeline. These projects, combined with the resurgence of the Callide C coal generator, hold the promise of reducing electricity prices in the state. But there's a caveat: the benefits of these new wind and solar projects could be squandered if Queensland persists with its long duration pumped hydro schemes.

The Problem with Long Duration Pumped Hydro

Leitch's epiphany is straightforward but profound: managing storage with power, rather than duration, is a smarter choice. He argues that having numerous smaller, flexible power sources scattered throughout the grid is more effective than relying on centralized long-duration systems. The primary issue with long-duration storage is the time it takes to recharge. It can't effectively harness short bursts of wind or sun during energy droughts in low-power areas.

Why Queensland Should Reconsider

Queensland possesses excellent solar and wind resources, but its vision of coupling Queensland and New South Wales wind to reduce the need for firming seems muddled. This partnership could significantly benefit both states, but parochial thinking might be holding Queensland back.

Furthermore, the cost of long-duration pumped hydro projects is astronomical. Leitch highlights that the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has raised its estimates of pumped hydro costs over the years. The costs for projects like Pioneer-Burdekin are uncertain and could lead to financial burdens in the long run.

A Better Approach

Leitch suggests an alternative approach: focusing on the cost of transmission and firming. By optimising the energy portfolio and investing in wind power, Queensland can minimise the need for costly long-duration pumped hydro. This more diversified strategy could result in cost savings and a more robust energy system.


The Queensland Government's commitment to renewable energy is commendable, but it must ensure that the chosen projects are not just environmentally friendly but also economically viable. David Leitch's analysis shows that proceeding with giant pumped hydro projects like Pioneer-Burdekin could be a grave mistake. It's time for Queensland to reassess its energy plans and consider more cost-effective, power-focused solutions that will truly benefit its citizens and the environment.



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