Renewable Energy and Storage Program


Through its Renewable Energy and Storage Program WaterNSW is looking to identify opportunities to use its land and assets to support renewable energy generation and storage projects.

We see this as an important and exciting opportunity to help support the energy markets transition to renewable generation technologies and provide a reliable and affordable energy supply.

WaterNSW has been working closely with the NSW Government to ensure the Program is aligned with delivering the State’s objectives under the NSW Electricity Strategy. The Program fulfils an action of the NSW Pumped Hydro Roadmap of bringing forward private sector investment in pumped hydro schemes.

The Program also plays a key role in WaterNSW’s commitment to being a socially and environmentally responsible organisation.

Through a competitive tender process, WaterNSW has evaluated private sector proposals against requirements including the contribution to future energy security, compatibility with WaterNSW assets and operations and maximising the value of the State’s investment in WaterNSW.

Successful projects are offered a Development Agreement which provides access to WaterNSW land and other arrangements to support the development of the project for approval.


WaterNSW went to the market in early 2020 seeking expressions of interest using Windamere and Burrendong Dam for renewable energy and storage projects.

From this process, WaterNSW has awarded a Development Agreement with ACEN Australia for a large pumped hydro scheme located on land adjacent to Lake Burrendong. If constructed, Project Phoenix would generate up to 810MW of electricity for 12 continuous hours.

This is the first Development Agreement WaterNSW has awarded under the Program.

WaterNSW is currently considering proposals from a second expression of interest for several other dams across WaterNSW’s portfolio. Shortlisted projects from this round are currently being evaluated and any successful applicants will be announced during 2023.

Phoenix Pumped Hydro Project

Pumped hydro

Energy storage is an increasingly important part of the electricity system as it allows us to ensure energy is always available even when the sun and wind are not. Pumped hydro is the most common and most mature form of this energy storage.

The New South Wales Government is making targeted investments to help realise the significant potential that pumped hydro has to deliver additional electricity generation and much needed energy storage to the State Electricity Market.

How does pumped hydro work?

Pumped hydro utilises two bodies of water, known as reservoirs, which are interconnected and located at different elevations, with a hydro power station situated near the lower reservoir.

Electricity is generated when water is released from the upper reservoir through the hydroelectric turbines. When surplus electricity is being produced by the electricity grid, for instance when there is excess variable energy from solar or wind, the water is then pumped from the lower reservoir back up to the upper reservoir using this excess electricity.

Using pumped hydro to create energy will assist in ‘firming up’ the variable energy generation resulting from the increased presence of wind and solar in the electricity grid, while facilitating the decarbonising of the national electricity grid and contributing to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

What is the Phoenix Pumped Hydro Project?

The Phoenix Pumped Hydro Project is a proposed pumped storage hydro project in the early stages of project assessment and development, located adjacent to Burrendong Dam, near Wellington, within the Central West-Orana Renewable Energy Zone.

If delivered, the Project will store energy during periods of surplus electricity generation and generate energy during periods of high demand using the stored energy under a daily cycle regime.

The project would create 810MW of capacity and storage for up to 12 continuous hours of electricity generation, sufficient energy to power over 400,000 homes during peak period.

At the height of the projects development and construction it is forecast that up to 500 (FTE) jobs would be created and approx.50 (FTE) jobs once operational.

How much land will the project cover?

The upper and lower reservoir that will each cover a surface area of approximately 50ha and capable of holding up to 15,000ML of water, or 1% of Lake Burrendong.

Will the Phoenix Pumped Hydro project interfere with the operation of Burrendong Dam?

No. If constructed the project will have no impact on how WaterNSW operates Lake Burrendong or on the security of water entitlements for the valley.

Is the Phoenix Pumped Hydro project located in a Renewable Energy Zones?

The Project is located within the Central-West Orana REZ and, if constructed, will provide the long duration storage required to support renewables penetration in this region.

Is WaterNSW funding the project?

No. WaterNSW awarded the contract to ACEN Australia Pty Ltd to develop the project on WaterNSW owned land following an extensive competitive tender process. Should it be constructed, the project will play an important role in assisting with the delivery of New South Wales energy ambitions.

When will work on the project commence if approved?

The development and planning phase for the project is expected over the next three years beginning in 2023. Subject to the completion of detailed environmental studies and regulatory approvals being in place, construction is forecast to commence in mid 2025, and take approximately three years. The facility is forecast be operational by the end of 2029.

Does the project consume more electricity than it generates?

Pumped hydro has long been recognised as both a very efficient and effective part of electricity systems, balancing times of low and high electricity supply from variable energy sources, whilst also assisting grid reliability and stability. This is increasingly important in regions where intermittent renewables (large scale wind and solar farms) produce a large proportion of the region’s electricity consumption.

As more electricity is needed to pump the water up the hill than is produced moving the water down the hill, the facility is a net user of electricity. However, these plants are incredibly efficient (at around 80%) and can be made available in only a matter of minutes, making it very competitive with other energy storage options such as battery storage.

Why is pumped hydro required?

NSW’s energy system is going through an energy transformation driven by the exit of coal and other emissions intensive generation sources. The NSW Government has signalled that over the next 15 years, four of the five coal fired power stations which currently provide around three quarters of the State’s energy supply, will retire.

Intermittent renewable energy, including solar and wind generation, will in large part replace this generation and will play an important role in helping the NSW Government’s ambitions to reach net zero emissions by 2050. However, the variability of generation from intermittent renewable sources, means that it is not necessarily available on demand.

Investment in complementary forms of short and long duration electricity storage, such as pumped hydro, is therefore important to ensure surplus renewable energy can be stored and to ‘even out’ fluctuations’ in generation. Furthermore, pumped hydro energy storage provides a range of essential network services that may not be able to be provided by intermittent renewable energy sources. These play a critical role in helping to deliver NSW energy consumers a secure and reliable network.

How would this project help in the development of renewable energy?

Many renewable technologies, such as wind and solar, provide what is known as intermittent generation. This means that they are not capable of providing generation on-demand. This may be because the wind isn’t blowing or the sun isn’t shining.

A modern energy grid that is powered by renewables must be capable of providing energy on-demand to consumers. Pumped hydro energy storage can play an important role in delivering this outcome.

Pumped hydro energy storage has the ability to support the ongoing deployment of renewable energy through acting as a source of demand. This surplus renewable energy can then be released during times when it is needed to ensure that energy supply meets demand.

WaterNSW is seeking private sector investment in renewable energy generation and/or storage projects, such as pumped Hydro on WaterNSW land and assets.


WaterNSW Media enquiries should be directed to:

Program enquiries should be directed to:

ACEN Project enquiries should be directed to:

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