Atco applies brake to 2,600 MWh pumped hydro project


Canadian gas giant Atco has announced it will ‘defer’ submitting the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Central West Pumped Hydro Project (CWPH) planned for near Bathurst in central west New South Wales (NSW).

It was anticipated construction of the project, which has been identified as a State Significant Development, would begin in late 2024 with operations expected to commence in 2027 but Atco has now indicated that schedule will be pushed out until there is a “clear commercial pathway” for the project.

In a statement, the company said it remains committed to the delivery of the CWPH and will continue to progress the project but has opted to defer the submission of the EIS “from its originally anticipated schedule.”

“The project’s EIS is in the process of being finalised, however, we have decided to defer our EIS submission until some of the NSW government’s policy frameworks mature, and there is a clear commercial pathway for large civil projects like pumped hydro,” Atco said.

“This will result in some deferment from our originally anticipated schedule, but we are working hard to ensure critical projects like CWPH are delivered affordably and promptly.”

Atco did not clarify what it is seeking from the state government, saying only that “overall, the frameworks are close to being able to support financial investment decisions for large-scale infrastructure like pumped hydro, but require some further development on risk allocations to ensure the delivery pathways are clear and feasible.”

Atco said it is likely it will defer lodging the EIS, a key element of the regulatory approvals process, for up to 12 months but that timeframe would depend on “the government and its relevant authorities, and the time they require to refresh the support mechanisms for long-duration storage projects like pumped hydro.”

“We would hope this period may take between six to 12 months; however, our preference is for this to happen faster to deliver the capacity required in NSW sooner and in line with the state’s 2030 storage targets,” Atco said.

The CWPH project is planned for a site near Yetholme, between Bathurst and Lithgow in the proposed 3 GW Central-West Orana renewable energy zone (REZ).

The NSW government has identified the project as a State Significant Development, indicating it will deliver large-scale energy storage and firming capacity to allow for an increased uptake of renewable energy and to help plug the gap left by exiting coal-fired generation.

Atco was awarded $9.4 million in Recoverable Grant funding to progress CWPH through the feasibility stage.

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