Snowy Hydro redux: $2b to expand scheme as crisis looms

PRIME Minister Malcolm Turnbull is set to announce a "game-changing" expansion of the iconic Snowy Hydro electric scheme to stave off Australia's looming power crisis.

The $2 billion infrastructure project would be the biggest in a generation, according to reports, and would increase the original hydro scheme's power supply capacity by 50 per cent

Mr Turnbull is expected to make the announcement later today, just 24 hours after he summoned gas company chiefs to an emergency meeting to deal with the country's threatened gas shortage.

It also follows the South Australian government's promise to build a $550 million gas-fired power plant and battery storage facility, moves the PM has dismissed as inadequate.

"Every Australian should be confident that they can turn the lights on when they need them. We will always put sensible, considered energy decisions ahead of reckless targets that cannot guarantee power supply to Australians," Mr Turnbull told the Daily Telegraph .

As well as providing enough electricity to power 500,000 new homes, the project could create thousands of new construction jobs.

The original Snowy Hydro scheme was completed in 1974 and is made up of a series of dams, pipelines, turbines, pumping and power stations that remain Australia's largest-ever engineering project ever undertaking.

At full capacity it produces 4100 megawatts of electricity and the proposed expansion would add 2000MW by using the existing reservoirs to power new turbines in a new network of tunnels.

The upgrade and expansion will reportedly take four years to complete and is being touted as a "game-changer" in Australia's scramble to shore up flagging energy supplies.

"By supercharging the Snowy Hydro precinct, we can ensure affordable and reliable electricity for Australian households and businesses," Fairfax quotes Mr Turnbull as saying.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg confirmed the price tag will be in the billions of dollars.

"The amount of new power we're talking about here will be bigger than the Hazelwood power plant which is scheduled to close at the end of this month, " he told ABC radio.

"So this is a game changing announcement, something that is iconic in Australia and I think it should be welcomed by all Australians."

A feasibility study will get underway as soon as possible, he said.

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