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MDBA tests new Hume water release patterns to boost hydro power

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) and Meridian Energy Australia will trial different water release patterns from Hume Dam this summer in a bid to increase power supply and improve grid stability.

The trial will vary water releases between 2pm and 8pm on weekdays. The aim is to release more water at times of the day when grid demand is surging in order to generate hydropower when it is most needed.

MDBA Executive Director of River Management Andrew Reynolds said the volume of water available to communities, irrigators and environmental water holders would not be affected by the trial.

He said the MDBA’s “business as usual” approach of conserving water for entitlement holders and preserving the river environment would be maintained.

“While river levels will vary most noticeably immediately below Hume Dam, they will remain within the current range of variability and will dissipate by the time the flow reaches Albury,” Reynolds said.

“With current conditions being so dry, it’s important to note the trial will not impact on water availability for entitlement holders downstream of Hume.”

Meridian bought hydro power stations on the Hume, Burrinjuck and Keepit dams in March this year. These, along with wind farms in South Australia and Victoria, help ensure a reliable, low-carbon energy supply for its Powershop retail arm.

If the trial is successful, the practice of managing water releases to stabilise the grid could be applied to other dams, Meridian CEO Ed McManus said.

“By releasing more water at times of the day with peak electricity demand, we will make better use of the Hume Dam to generate electricity when it is most needed, with no impact to downstream water users,” McManus said.

“More electricity supply at peak times has the potential to lower wholesale prices.”

Releases will be monitored throughout the summer to ensure there are no adverse impacts on native fish or bank erosion rates.