“Just as the original Snowy Hydro project brought jobs and prosperity to Australia after the Second World War, Snowy 2.0 will help Australia grow its way out of the economic challenges from the coronavirus,” Mr Morrison said.
“Already Snowy 2.0 is creating a jobs boom, with over 100 local businesses benefiting from the government’s investment to date, with much more local investment to come.”
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Angus Taylor said the project would “deliver affordable, reliable power” into the electricity market.
“It will reduce volatility in the market, support reliability and bring down power prices for Australian families and businesses,” Mr Taylor said.
Energy retailers have warned the size of the mega-hydro project could reduce competition and squeeze other new energy projects out of the market. Market analysts have warned the capital costs of the project may prevent it from offering energy price savings to customers.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said conditions placed on the project would protect environmental assets, including native fish.
“The approval process ensures the development is built and operated in a way that sensitively avoids, mitigates and rehabilitates environmental impacts while protecting the environment and its rich biodiversity as we move to a clean energy future,” Ms Ley said.
Snowy Hydro must invest almost $100 million in biodiversity and environmental works, including an offset fund of up to $73.8m through the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to protect threatened species.
In May, chairman of the NSW Fisheries Scientific Committee Mark Lintermans resigned his position in protest against the project, which he said risked the survival of a critically endangered native fish species, the stocky galaxias, by transferring an invasive species into its habitat.
“I cannot continue to serve a government that so wilfully ignores the destructive impacts of Snowy 2.0 on two threatened fish species,” Professor Lintermans said.
National Parks Association executive officer Gary Dunnett said the project was environmentally damaging.
“Never before has millions of tonnes of contaminated waste been dumped in a National Park, pest fish and diseases spread across the headwaters of the Murray, Snowy and Murrumbidgee river systems, a critically-endangered species been driven into extinction or hundreds of hectares of threatened species habitat destroyed in a National Heritage listed place,” he said.
Snowy Hydro, a Commonwealth owned company, is overseen by the Finance and the Energy and Emissions Reduction Ministers and an independent board. Their approval is required before investment is finalised.
Engineering and construction company Clough have been awarded a $5.1 billion contract for civil and electro-mechanical works, pending final approval. The project is expected to be completed in 2027.
Mike is the climate and energy correspondent for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.