Hydro energy is a form of renewable energy that uses water stored in dams and flowing in rivers to create electricity. Australia has more than 100 hydro-electric plants, with hydropower contributing around 7% of Australia’s National Electricity Market.
Turning water into power
Hydro-electric plants use the energy of falling or flowing water to turn turbine blades. The rotating blades spin a generator that converts the mechanical energy of the turbine spinning into electrical energy. The amount of electricity generated from each power plant depends on the quantity of the flowing water and the height it falls from the reservoir to the turbines.
How it works
Origin Energy, What is hydro energy?
Some hydro-electric plants have what’s known as ‘pumped storage’. This means at night, when demand for electricity is low, water is pumped back up into the dam so it can be released again the next day when electricity demand is higher.
Hydro’s been in Australia for decades
Most of Australia's hydro-electric plants were built in the 1950s and 1960s.
Australia’s biggest hydropower generator is the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme, which has a capacity of 3,800 megawatts, almost half of the country's total hydro output. This scheme, spanning New South Wales and Victoria, has 7 power stations, 16 dams and 145 kilometres of tunnels.1 It’s one of the world’s most complex integrated water and hydro-electricity schemes.
Hydro in Australia’s electricity mix
Hydropower generation depends on rainfall patterns and varies from year to year. Typically, hydropower contributes about 8 per cent of the electricity in Australia’s National Electricity Market (NEM) and around 60 per cent of all the renewable energy in the NEM.2
Electricity generation in Australia's National Electricity Market
Australia’s hydropower comes from more than 100 operating hydro-electric power plants, which are typically located in areas with high rainfall and elevation. The majority of Australia’s hydro-electric plants are in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.