Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced he wants to expand the Snowy Mountains hydro scheme (or as he described it on Thursday – "Snowy 2.0") in a project that'll surely outlast him... if it gets built.
So what's all this about? Well it's got a long fucking history... here's what you need to know.
Last century, from the late 1940s until the mid 1970s, Australia undertook a batshit crazy project to build dams and aqueducts in the Snowy Mountains to produce hydro electricity. It became known as the Snowy Mountain hydro scheme.
The Australian National University's professor of engineering Andrew Blakers explained to BuzzFeed News that the basic mechanics of the network are reservoirs at different heights connected by pipes.
"When electricity is plentiful, in other words when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, water is pumped up the hill to the upper reservoir," Blakers said. "When it stops blowing and the sun stops shining, the water is released back down the tunnel through a turbine, creating electricity."
Now, Malcolm Turnbull's $2 billion plan is to build new tunnels between reservoirs, which eventually would add a huge 2000 megawatts of clean, renewable energy to the grid powering Australia's east coast.
At this stage Turnbull is just asking for a feasibility study to be done by the end of the year, with work starting in 2018. But wait, wait, wait, there'll be the environmental approvals first, which could derail everything.
"I think it can be done with remarkably few problems," Blakers said when asked about whether the environmental approvals could derail the project. He suggested a lot of the disruptive tunnelling would be done outside the Kosciuszko National Park.
Blakers praised Turnbull's foresight: "It’ll take five to seven years to build this thing. We are going to need it – therefore we need to start looking at it now so there is time to actually build it before we need it."
But some have suggested the feasibility study announcement might be a short term political fix for the energy debate currently swirling around Australia.
Which, incidentally, is remarkably similar to the plot about the Snowy Mountains scheme in this episode of the ABC's Utopia.
Mark Di Stefano is a political editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Sydney.
Contact Mark Di Stefano at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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