The role of water in pumped hydro energy schemes

Pumped hydro energy schemes (PHES) use the flow of water between two reservoirs or dams to spin a turbine and generate electricity.

It is a renewable energy, and an important element of Queensland’s Energy and Jobs Plan.

The Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water regulates water use in Queensland. This includes the water needed for pumped hydro.

Queensland’s regulatory framework for the management of water resources is established in the Water Act 2000. This provides the basis for catchment-based water planning.

The department develops water plans for Queensland’s catchments, to sustainably manage and allocate water resources in the state.

Any reservoirs (dams and weirs) that are constructed on a watercourse will interfere with the flow of water. They must be authorised under the Water Act.

Dams and weirs capture water that can be taken from the storage and used for communities, stock, agriculture, or industry.

The water that is taken and any resulting changes to water flows in the watercourse must be accounted for in accordance with the catchment’s water plan.

PHES projects are usually closed systems. Once the water is in the system, it circulates between the two reservoirs. Water is not taken out of the system like with other traditional water development. The diversion and recirculation of water from the lower reservoir to the upper and back to the lower reservoir does interfere with the flow of water in the watercourse, so it needs to be authorised by either a licence to interfere or a Resource Operations Licence.

In some instances, an entitlement to take may be needed to fill and refill the storages. This this will depend on the design of the scheme, and the water plan it falls under.

The department is developing tools to help proponents of PHES understand what they need to do to meet their statutory obligations.

We are also working with other agencies who have a role in regulating PHES to increase the timeliness, consistency, and quality of the advice given to proponents.

Find out more about water assessments for PHES.

Find out more about PHES in Queensland.

Find out about water planning in Queensland.

Last updated: 05 Oct 2023