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Questioning Queensland Hydro's Understanding of Power and Cost

In a recent article by Renew Economy, we learned about New South Wales' latest plans for their renewable energy future. They've given planning approval to two big battery projects, effectively moving towards a greener, more sustainable future. This comes as a stark contrast to our home state, Queensland, where the government continues to favor environmentally damaging projects like the Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project over cleaner, potentially cheaper alternatives.


Let's take a look at the NSW projects: the Muswellbrook BESS, a 150MW/300MWh battery, estimated to cost about $157 million and the Apsley BESS, a 120MW/240MWh battery with an estimated cost of around $123 million. After performing some calculations based on these figures, we estimated that 5.5 GW of firming storage (the capacity currently in NSW's planning pipeline) could cost between $2.848 billion to $5.698 billion, providing approximately 2,848 gigawatt-hours of energy storage capacity.

Big battery storage facility
Muswellbrook BESS - provided by firmpower.com.au

Compare these figures to the proposed Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro project in Queensland, set to cost around $12 billion, potentially escalating to $24 billion if it follows the typical overrun trajectory of such projects. By paralleling the size and scope of the Pioneer-Burdekin project to the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, the cost for an equivalent battery system comes out to be around $3.06 billion. This is significantly cheaper than the projected cost of the hydro project.


However, when questioned about this discrepancy, Queensland Hydro asserted that the Hornsdale Power Reserve is only intended for short-duration network security services. They maintained that the Pioneer-Burdekin Project, with its large-scale, long-duration energy storage, will help support shifting Queensland’s carbon-intensive baseload energy to renewable energy in a way that battery storage cannot. But does this argument hold water?


It's true that these two types of energy storage serve different purposes. But it's also true that technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate, and large-scale battery storage is rapidly becoming more feasible and affordable. The NSW government recognises this and is forging ahead with their battery storage plans, viewing it as an integral part of their green energy transition.

This begs the question: Why isn't Queensland following suit? Why does our government insist on pushing forward with a project that threatens our beloved Eungella and its unique ecosystems when there are other, potentially more affordable and less destructive, options on the table?

Could it be that the bigger issue at play here is a failure of leadership? Perhaps our government has been too slow to recognise and react to the mounting energy crisis, and is now scrambling to implement a solution without due consideration for alternative options or the environmental impact. We've known for almost a decade that transitioning to renewable energy was necessary, and yet it seems we're still playing catch-up.


The figures don't lie. We need to question the validity of the information provided by Queensland Hydro and demand transparency from our leaders. We need to ask why they are not pursuing alternatives that pose less environmental risk and may even be more economically viable.


There's no denying that transitioning to renewable energy is a challenging task. But if NSW can prioritise it while also protecting their natural heritage, why can't Queensland? We need to keep asking these questions, for the sake of Eungella and for the future of our state. Let us keep seeking the truth and demand better from our leaders. Our fight continues.

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