Nationals Slam Labor Over Kurri Power Project Delays And Blowouts

There are fears locals could see their electricity bills skyrocket further if even bigger delays to a key energy project at Kurri Kurri eventuate.

Snowy Hydro CEO Dennis Barnes advised Senate Estimates last week the Hunter Power Project is 12 months behind schedule with final power now due in December 2024.

First announced by the former Coalition Government in May 2021 as a gas-powered facility, the newly elected Albanese Government instead opted for a renewable model in February 2022 with Energy Minister Chris Bowen saying it would run entirely on Green Hydrogen by 2030, and 30% initially.

The plan has hit a major snag though, which could prompt even longer delays.

During questioning at Senate Estimates, Snowy Hydro CEO Dennis Barnes also revealed a Mid project review was underway and admitted no supply of Green Hydrogen had been found to meet the target set by Labor.

It comes as time runs out to fill the 13% gap in New South Wales’ energy market when the Liddell coal-fired power station at Muswellbrook closes in less than a month.

The Nationals are warning without the Hunter facility up and running energy bills will increase by 30%.

Leader David Littleproud was in town today calling on the Albanese Government to firm up energy supply and keep prices down by putting gas in at Kurri Kurri.

“You need gas to give that firming energy… to make sure that it can run and that it is affordable and that’s just common sense,” Mr Littleproud said.

“This project is so far behind because they had to re-plan to accommodate for hydrogen, firstly, possibly at 30%, which even Snowy Hydro is saying may not even be possible, to 100%. They’ve demonized gas, they’ve stuffed this up and you are paying the bill.”

With Liddell on the cusp of being retired there are growing concerns about how supplies will hold up over a peak this winter.

David Littleproud said while locals will be able to keep the lights on they will likely be paying more for it.

“I’m not an educated man, I’m just a bloke from Western Queensland with a year 12 education, but they taught me in Grade 8 that when supply goes down, prices go up.”

Muddying the waters of the project even further, rumours of a $1.5 billion cost blowout also had to be hosed down at Senate Estimates last week. Mr Barnes said while halfway mark review was yet to be finalised, the amount would be nowhere near that figure.

Minister Bowen’s office has since conceded the project is $150 million over budget, not including additional costs for Green Hydrogen which are estimated at between $700 million and $1 billion.