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Nymboida hydro back on the agenda

Geoff Helisma | What to do with the hydroelectricity generation and water supply infrastructure at Nymboida has been a fraught issue since severe flooding caused major damage in February 2013. Currently owned by Essential Energy, including Clarence Valley’s water supply licence, multiple issues have remained unresolved, according to quarterly reports tabled at CVC meetings since June 2015. At yesterday’s Corporate Governance & Works Committee (CG&WC) meeting, councillors considered a notice of motion (NOM) from Cr Richie Williamson, who has proposed that CVC “fund an independent desktop investigation into the economics of Clarence Valley Council generating electricity at the Nymboida Power Station”. Councillor Williamson has previously supported re-establishing electricity generation at the site. When mayor in November 2013, he gained unanimous councillor support to “write to Essential Energy and the New South Wales Minster for Energy … registering the Council’s strong objection to any proposed closure of the Nymboida Hydro-Electric Power Station”. Also in November 2013, Clarence MP Chris Gulatpis spoke about the issue in NSW Parliament. “Essential Energy should be investing both in the Nymboida power station and a proper maintenance regime for the continuation of electricity production from the site,” he said. However, come June 2015, then mayor Richie Williamson and CVC had a change of mind, at least in regard to owning and operating the facility. “Our only interest is supply of water to the Coffs/Clarence area,” Cr Williamson was reported to have said. “We are not in the business of power generation. “We were once, but that asset was taken off us.” Councillor Williamson told the Independent that the former Northern Rivers county council (one of the councils amalgamated to form CVC) used to own the hydroelectric station. “The council’s main focus remains the supply of water and it may remain that way even if the NOM is adopted,” he said, “it’s up to councillors now to make a decision. “I want our council to be totally powered by renewable energy, 100 per cent. In his NOM, Cr Williamson also moved to “investigate any opportunity for the generation of solar energy at/or on the [nearby] Shannon Creek Dam”. “Hydro does have some restraints, but I think … the solar panels at Shannon Creek and the hydro [should be] seen as one,” he said. He said they would complement each other and ensure that one or the other (or both) would be capable of generating a regular supply of energy despite long wet or dry periods. Councillor Williamson said that CVC is already producing significant amounts of electricity from its solar installations. In his NOM, Cr Williamson (who does not sit on the CG&WC) wrote that the ultimate outcome should result in “council owning and operating the hydro scheme, for the generation of power being for local government use with any surplus supply being sold to the grid”. He wrote that the desktop review should consider “the known risks and benefits, including (but not limited too) infrastructure, licencing risks, heritage risks, carbon reduction payments, available government grants and schemes for capital items (for the power station to remain in public hands)”. By way of background, he wrote: “This Notice of Motion is about a long-term strategy to ensure the council is making the most of any opportunity that may exist within the current infrastructure at Nymboida and across council’s water assets generally, regarding the generation of electricity, to offset council usage and omissions. “Council already has the policy to own most of the [Nymboida] water infrastructure (excluding the weir).” Councillors will reconsider Cr Williamson’s NOM at the June 26 full meeting of council.