The developers of the nation’s largest renewable energy project, the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro scheme, suspended construction earlier this week after a worker was killed in a fatal road accident.
The subcontracted worker was involved in a single-vehicle crash on the Snowy Mountains Highway at Dry Plain on Monday. New South Wales police said the man became trapped after his truck rolled over, and died at the scene.
Operations across all Snowy 2.0 project sites were halted on Monday and were not scheduled to resume until the night shift on Tuesday.
“This is a tragic event,” Snowy Hydro chief executive Dennis Barnes said. “We are supporting our Snowy 2.0 principal contractor, Future Generation Joint Venture, our teams and all those impacted in the community at this very sad and difficult time.”
Future Generation – a joint venture between Italy’s Webuild, Clough and US-based Lane Construction – extended its condolences to the driver’s family, friends and co-workers.
“Future Generation is focused on supporting our workforce during this time,” it said. “Safety and the wellbeing of our workforce will always remain the main priority of Future Generation and our joint-venture partners.”
In a statement, Federal Energy Minister Chris Bowen and Public Service Minister Katy Gallagher said the government expected the highest safety standards at Snowy 2.0 and all work sites, and would engage closely with Snowy Hydro and union officials following the tragic incident.
“Everyone deserves to come home safe from work,” they said.
Snowy 2.0 is considered an important project to support the east-coast power grid’s transition to renewable energy. The project will use surplus electricity to pump water uphill and dispatch it during periods when demand is high and supply is low, such as when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.
However, the $5.9 billion Snowy 2.0 project is running behind schedule and is now not due to be completed until 2027. Its delays have contributed to the Australian Energy Market Operator’s concerns about the risk of electricity supply gaps widening in the coming years amid impending closures of several of Australia’s large coal-fired power stations.
Up to five-coal fired power stations, including the Yallourn generator in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley, NSW’s Liddell, Eraring and Vales Point power plants, and Queensland’s Callide B, are expected to shut down this decade, removing 13 per cent of the east-coast grid’s generating capacity.
Gaps in the market begin to emerge from 2025, AEMO warns – first in NSW due to Origin Energy’s possible closure of Eraring, then in Victoria from 2026 because of the closure of two gas-fired power stations in South Australia.
Delays to Snowy 2.0 have raised suggestions that Origin Energy may extend the life of Eraring beyond 2025. When it announced its intention last year to close the plant early, the company gave a commitment it would continue evaluating market conditions and not withdraw the plant in 2025 unless the grid was equipped to handle its exit.
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