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Private Members Statement - Western Sydney Pumped Hydro

4th June, 2024.

Australians are well known for being innovators, often ahead of the curve thanks to our country's unique environment where traditional solutions do not work. That is no more evident than in a project that is proposed for my electorate, Western Sydney Pumped Hydro. It is a site‑specific project that responds to the unique challenge of what to do with a defunct coalmining washery. ZEN Energy, an Australian‑owned energy company, has been selected by WaterNSW to examine the feasibility of the proposed Western Sydney Pumped Hydro project on Gandangara land. It is connected to Lake Burragorang, a man-made reservoir filled up by the Warragamba Dam that provides Sydney with its clean water. Western Sydney Pumped Hydro will utilise the former Burragorang Valley coal washery site in Nattai to generate clean energy.

Surrounded by the greenery of the national park, the remnants of the coalmine washery is a huge hole in the ground with no further purpose—until now. The site is already undergoing remediation, so this project will have minimal impacts on biodiversity and on cultural or heritage values. Pumped hydro will work by filling the remains of the coalmine with water, which is pumped through a pipe connecting it to the nearby lower Lake Burragorang. When energy is needed, the water in the upper reservoir of the former coalmine is released through pipes, which turn turbines to create energy—a lot of energy. One thousand megawatts of energy can be created. That is one gigawatt of renewable energy, enough to power half a million homes for eight continuous hours.

Solar power and wind turbines already offer clean energy solutions, but the project will have benefits beyond just power generation. It is a closed-loop system with no impacts on the water levels of the nearby Burragorang River or Warragamba Dam as the water travels back and forth between the two bodies of water, all while providing clean, renewable energy. Where the project differs from solar and wind turbines is that it is designed to store excess clean energy and make it available when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing, making it an ideal complement to the existing forms of renewable energy. The maintenance of the site and surrounding fire trails will also benefit firefighters during bushfires, all while creating energy security for the growing populations of Wollondilly and south-west Sydney.

Importantly, the project is not connected to the raising of the Warragamba Dam wall, which forms Lake Burragorang. I reiterate my previous statements on the dam wall and reaffirm my opposition to raising the dam wall. The project demonstrates that there are other ways to create clean energy that have positive impacts on the surrounding landscape. The project will create 1,500 jobs for locals during the construction phase and 80 ongoing jobs once Western Sydney Pumped Hydro is up and running. With a goal to start construction in 2027 and the project to come online in 2031, the project sets a genuinely exciting precedent when it comes to innovative thinking about renewable energy as we all work towards achieving Australia's zero carbon emission goals. It is time for action, as we reach a critical point in addressing carbon reduction measures. New South Wales has a part to play and an opportunity to be a leader in the field. I cannot wait to see more innovative, sustainable projects like this come to fruition.