A competitive market mechanism is needed to encourage developers to build new pumped storage, Malcolm Turnbull has said, highlighting the need for more Long Duration Electricity Storage (LDES) to meet the energy storage needs of rapidly changing power systems.

The former Australian Prime Minister was speaking at the US National Hydropower Association’s Waterpower Week in Washington D.C. as part of an International Hydropower Association #WithHydropower delegation.

He said that meeting net zero climate change goals can be achieved with variable renewable energy such as wind and solar, but stable energy grids require long duration energy storage. 

“Right now, the single most important priority should be the planning and construction of Long Duration Electricity Storage in the form of pumped storage hydropower.

“In most of the world, including the United States and Australia, this is not yet happening at anything like the pace we need.

“This is the ignored crisis within the energy crisis,” Turnbull added.

Pumped storage hydorpower provides approximately 95% of the world’s electricity storage. As coal and gas-fired generation is decommissioned, hydropower’senergy storage services are becoming increasingly important.  

“The only way to make renewables reliable in the zero-emission energy system we need is with storage and that is going to include long duration storage for 8, 12, 24 and more hours… And it will be pumped storage that will do the heavy lifting,” Turnbull emphasised.

To accelerate the development of pumped storage hydropower capacity globally, Turnbull said that a competitive market mechanism is needed that incentivises developers to build storage capacity some of which will not be cycled every day, like batteries, but held in reserve for those cloudy windless days or weeks when renewable production is low – and at the lowest cost to protect the interests of consumers.

Turnbull recently chaired an International Forum on Pumped Storage Hydropower, together with the Assistant Secretary for Energy at the US Department of Energy, Kelly Speakes-Backman. The Forum’s main recommendation was the need to urgently secure investment in pumped storage, to ensure more capacity is developed in time to meet the needs of the clean energy transition.

“Without pumped storage, the energy transition is in danger of stalling just as it should be accelerating. The energy transition, the achievement of net zero, containing global warming to 2 degrees all depends on it, depends, in other words, on us,” said Mr Turnbull.

From left to right: IHA Climate Policy Manager Debbie Gray, Former Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, President and CEO of the National Hydropower Association Malcolm Woolf and IHA CEO Eddie Rich.