Borumba Pumped Hydro – Speech in the House of Representatives 19/06/23

June 19, 2023

Hansard 19/06/2023  House of Representatives

Mr LLEW O’BRIEN (Wide Bay(19:30): Borumba Pumped Hydro will cost at least $4 billion more than Snowy Hydro 2.0 is currently expected to cost for just 13 per cent of the output. For a massive $14.2 billion, we will get up to 24 hours of power out of Borumba, compared to Snowy Hydro 2.0, which even at its blown-out cost of about $10 billion will at least offer seven days of power. On these numbers alone, Borumba Pumped Hydro just does not stack up.

This starts as one of the most expensive taxpayer funded renewable projects in Australia. The $14.2 billion figure pays only for the pumped hydro project. No figure has ever been released on the expected cost of the compulsory acquisitions of land for the transmission lines or the upgrades to the power station at Woolooga. We have not seen any detailed economic feasibility studies in relation to Borumba Pumped Hydro. Why are we told renewables are so cheap and nuclear is so expensive when, for the same $14.2 billion, we could build nearly three one-gigawatt small modular reactions for 24/7 dispatchable power. While Snowy 2.0 will be able to generate at its full 2,000 megawatt capacity for 175 hours, Borumba will be able to generate at full capacity 2,000 megawatt capacity for only 24.

Borumba is not expected to be built until 2029, yet the compulsory acquisition for transmission lines is beginning now, to link a project that may not even be subject to environmental approvals. By the time Borumba is expected to come online, in more than six years, how will technology have changed and progressed? Transmission towers of up to 500 kilovolts and up to 70 metres high atop 20 cubic metres of concrete foundations are proposed across more than 100 private properties between Borumba and Woolooga. Both the pumped hydro and the transmission lines will be built over a critically endangered subtropical Australian lowland rainforest and agricultural land used for grazing and small cropping.

The Labor government refuses to disclose how much it is squandering on Borumba Pumped Hydro, presumably due to commercial-in-confidence issues. It committed in the budget to an undisclosed amount for Borumba Pumped Hydro. It will be built 13 kilometres from the town of Imbil, with between 54 and 83 kilometres of forest to be ripped up to link it, via Powerlink’s pylon parasites, with the power station at Woolooga. Borumba Pumped Hydro and the planned transmission lines are to be built on a rural greenfield area that has never had industrial infrastructure. The farmers there help feed our nation. It’s so scenic. It is a sought-out mountain bikers’ and hikers’ retreat. Now it will be forced to bear the brunt of this industrialisation to provide power for Brisbane, 180 kilometres away.

This places an unfair burden on the bush, primarily on greenfield properties. Where is the audit on Crown land to find suitable places in the city to build these renewables, where transmission losses would be vastly less? The habitat of Brisbane is protected from intrusive renewables, while the habitat of platypuses, koalas and the northern quoll on freehold land is trashed for the development of pumped hydro and transmission lines. We are fighting for a Senate inquiry into the rollout of the high-voltage transmission lines across regional farmlands. For the fourth time, it was voted down 32-30, but we won’t go away. What does the Labor Party have to hide? Why won’t it let our communities have their say? Why won’t those on the crossbench vote for the Senate inquiry?




In the spirit of Australia, I acknowledge all citizens who contribute to making our nation the greatest on earth.

I acknowledge our defence force personnel, past, present, and emerging, for their service to our nation, and particularly those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of Australia.

I also acknowledge the Australian taxpayers who, through their hard work, pay for the infrastructure, health, education, and emergency services that keep our proud nation healthy, safe, and prosperous.