On Wednesday 28 September 2022 the Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, announced a plan to build the world’s largest pumped-hydro scheme 70km west of Mackay in the Pioneer River and Burdekin River Catchments.
According to the premier’s announcement the project will provide 5 gigawatts of electricity for up to 24 hours with the first stage to be completed by 2032.
The next day the premier visited Mackay for an invitation-only media launch of the project, also attended by Energy Minister, Mick De Brenni. Mackay Conservation Group representatives and affected landholders attended but were not permitted inside the venue. We spoke to government officials outside the venue.
A fact sheet was distributed to journalists and members of the public during the launch. The fact sheet includes a map outlining the proposed location of the storages. The lower storage will be on Cattle Creek in the upper Pioneer valley. It will inundate the town of Netherdale and the valley up to the base of the Eungella Range. The upper storages will be north of Eungella on properties adjacent to Dalrymple Road.
The Queensland Government will brief Mackay Conservation Group in the coming week. If you have any questions you would like us to raise during the briefing, please email MCG's dams campaigner Imogen Lindenberg [email protected]
What we know:
- The project will reportedly produce 21 times more electricity than Wivenhoe Dam pumped-hydro plant (the state's largest). We estimate the dams will require about 600,600 megalitres to fill the upper storages and a greater volume in the lower storage.
- The Pioneer River system’s average annual discharge is about 700,000 megalitres
- A lower reservoir is planned at Netherdale in the upper Pioneer Valley. It will flood the upper valley.
- Two upper reservoirs planned for the adjacent ranges located at the head of the Burdekin River catchment.
- Further studies are required to better understand the impacts and benefits of the project.
- By 2035, it is expected the new infrastructure will store and dispatch up to half of the state’s energy needs with renewable energy.
- The government says the projects will not inundate national parks or state forests. However, the maps provided show that pipelines and transmission lines will cross national parks.
What we don’t know:
- Whether the government has considered alternatives such as battery storage.
- The volume of water required for the project.
- Whether the $62 billion project cost is justified by as yet unreleased economic modelling.
- Whether the costs estimates are backed by engineering studies or whether they are educated guesses.
- Details of the infrastructure including a power station, turbines, tunnels, and cables.
- Whether the project will suffer from cost blow-outs as predicted by former environment and natural resources minister, Rod Welford.
Timeline: Analytical studies and community consultation to take place between 2024 - 2026
- June 2021 - Borumba Hydro Project announced.
- June 2022 - government announced $35 million of funding to identify a second Hydro site.
- September 2022 - Landowner engagement kick-off (ongoing)
- September 28 2022 - Qld Government announces Pioneer-Burdekin Pumped Hydro Project.
October 2022 - Community and stakeholder engagement to commence (ongoing)
- October 6 - Finch Hatton RSL, Anzac Parade, Finch Hatton.
- October 11 - Broken River Mountain Resort, Eungella Dam Road, Eungella
- October 12 - Split Spaces, Building 4, Level 2, 92 Sydney Street, Mackay.
- February 2023 - Studies commence and do for 18 months.