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Interview with Tom Elliott, Drive 3AW

30 June 2020

Interviewer: 
Tom Elliott

Subject: Snowy 2.0,

E&OE

TOM ELLIOTT:  But in other news today, the Prime Minister, along with the Energy Minister announced what they described as the nation's largest ever renewable energy project. They're calling it Snowy 2.0, which I think actually Malcolm Turnbull when he was Prime Minister, when he had his term, he called it that. They say it'll create 4,000 new jobs. But what does it actually mean? Because I've got to say, I've heard Snowy 2.0 many times, I don't actually know what it means. Our next guest is the Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, Angus Taylor MP. Good afternoon.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Thanks for having me Tom.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Pleasure. So, what is Snowy 2.0 for the uninitiated?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well it's an extra 2,000 megawatts of capacity for electricity generation. So it's essentially a big electricity generator up in the Snowy Mountains. It is expanding the Snowy Scheme which was built, as you would know, in the 50s, 60s, into the early 70s. It's a major expansion and what it will give us is an extra 2,000 megawatts, which is enough to power about 500,000 homes but importantly it also gives us storage. And this is enormously important right now because one in four Australians has got solar cells on their roofs. That means we're overproducing electricity during the day now and we've got to find a way of storing that so we can use it when the sun goes down.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Right. So, my limited understanding of it is, so what, you take the surplus solar power generated during the day and you pump water uphill and then you let it come back down the hill and turn the turbines at night time? Is that right?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's like a battery.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Right.

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's actually much more efficient than a battery, much lower cost than a battery, which is why it's not new. We already do that in the Snowy Scheme right now. We do it in Tasmania. We do it in many countries around the world. This will expand that capacity but it also expands the broader capacity of the Snowy Scheme, which means we've got more supply. And look, the key to getting prices down and keeping the lights on, particularly as we've got more and more solar coming into the system is to have firm, reliable, on-demand supply and Snowy is giving us that.

TOM ELLIOTT:  And of course, if you want to get your votes through the Senate, it has to be supply that doesn't come from burning coal.

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, of course, it does help to get our emissions down - there's no question about it - that's one of the benefits of Snowy. But what's different about other renewables is this is on-demand. You get it when you want it. When you flick the switch, you know it's there. That's not true with solar and wind. Of course solar relies on the sun being up and wind relies on the wind blowing. Snowy is there when you need it, and that's why hydro is a really great energy source, and one we've used for a long, long time in this country and right across the world.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Now, is it built and about to be switched on or are you just announcing today that you will now start building it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, so work is already going. In fact, we’ve already got about 500 people working on the project. What we announced today was the final environmental approvals at the federal level. We've already got state approvals - this is federal environmental approvals. It's the green light to start building the tunnel and doing the serious work. Until now, it's been preparation, Tom. And this has been a relatively quick period of time for a big project like this to get it up and running. It was only about two years ago that I was standing with the Prime Minister near where we were today, announcing that we were going to make the investment. Now the work is underway, well and truly.

TOM ELLIOTT:  That would've been Malcolm Turnbull back then.

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it was Scott Morrison.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Wasn't it?

ANGUS TAYLOR: No, it was Scott Morrison. Yeah. So we announced that together at Talbingo, up in the Snowy Mountains, and we were just near there today when we announced the environmental approvals.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Tell me, I mean, I don’t know how much notice you take of them, but do the Greens, like Adam Bandt who is now the new leader of the Greens federally, do they think this is a good idea?

ANGUS TAYLOR: Well, you'd have to ask them. You'd have to ask them. But I mean, look, I think the great virtue of Snowy is that it is renewable but it's also dispatchable. That means it's there when you want it. I mean, as soon as you need power, you drop the water down. And that's why, as I say, the original Snowy Scheme, which was a joint venture between the New South Wales, Victorian and Federal Governments, Commonwealth Government, was a huge success. And importantly, at the time, both Victoria and New South Wales were suffering blackouts and Snowy allowed or gave a fix to that very serious problem of blackouts and it meant that we had more reliable supply. It made a real difference. So, Snowy 2.0, obviously, it's many, many years later but it's an expansion of that original project that gives us that firm reliable supply. But also, it doesn't have emissions associated with it

TOM ELLIOTT:  Right.

ANGUS TAYLOR: So there's a lot to like about it.

TOM ELLIOTT:  And finally, when does the switch get flicked on? When the Snowy 2.0 actually start working?

ANGUS TAYLOR: It's scheduled to be going in 2025. We're going ahead of schedule at the moment but that was the original schedule. The tunnel work is the main work. There's two existing dams we're using. Again, one of the virtues of the project, its dams are already there, but we've got to build a new tunnel between them and that tunnel boring will begin now that we've got the environmental approvals.

TOM ELLIOTT:  Good to hear. Thank you so much for your time.

ENDS