Reports that Prime Minister will today announce a major expansion of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme with pumped hydro energy storage have been cautiously welcomed by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).
“It’s fantastic the Prime Minister is finally talking about renewable energy instead of massive new coal or gas generation but we have to be very careful not to further damage one of our most significant systems,” said ACF CEO Kelly O’Shanassy.
"Any renewables project large enough to power up to half a million homes needs to be viewed favourably as Australia makes the crucial transition away from fossil fuels to a clean energy future, but it can't spell the death of an already stressed river system.
“The Prime Minister should be congratulated for finally demonstrating some leadership in dragging the government out of industrial era thinking on energy, but we still have a long way to go when he embraces coal projects and continue to attack solar and wind energy.
“Hopefully this means Mr Turnbull has moved beyond 19th century coal but we don’t want to end up back in the 1950s either. The snowy scheme was a proud moment in Australia's multicultural history it has also left a damaging environmental legacy on one of our most famous rivers.
“We need to see the detail. Any adjustments to the Snowy scheme need to be considered for their impacts on the river system, agriculture and the environment. Mr Turnbull must step in where states have failed to restore flows.
“If you paddle down through the Snowy River Gorge you look up and several metres above you is the old banks of the river. The fish life and birdlife of the river have been decimated as a result.
"The existing scheme diverts water from 12 rivers and 71 creeks from across the Murray-Darling Basin, including 99% of the Snowy River’s headwaters. No river can survive on that."