Tasmania’s Electricity Woes – Still No End In Sight

Tasmania electricity crisis

While the lights probably won’t go out in Tasmania, the state’s energy crisis is really starting to pile on the pressure and has devolved into a war of words.

The Basslink interconnector between the state and mainland, which was supplying Tasmania with up to 40% of its electricity, failed in December. The event coincided with a particularly dry spell, which has seem dam levels plummet and threaten hydro-electric generation.

On Friday, Basslink provided an update regarding the situation.

“Basslink has today advised the Tasmanian Government and Hydro Tasmania that it will take longer  than expected to locate and repair the fault as it is proving far more difficult to narrow the fault area than anticipated.”

Basslink says it has narrowed the problem down to a few kilometres of cable and it expects to provide a revised timeline for repairs this week.

Wind power has been helping the state through the crisis, but while Tasmania has one of the highest rates of installed wind capacity in the world; it’s still not enough. Tamar Valley Power Station (gas) has been restarted, but that may not be enough either.

The state government has committed to install 100MW of containerised diesel generation by the end of March and an additional 100MW to be installed by the end of April. These installations are for use as a last resort.

The situation has also raised the thorny issue of the yet to be constructed 99MW Granville Harbour wind farm, which would have been very handy around now.

“Matthew Groom is so distracted by his own incompetence, he’s failing to support a crucial project for the West Coast,” said Labor Leader Bryan Green with regard to Tasmania’s Energy Minister.

“Labor’s got a strong track record of backing renewable energy projects in Tasmania and thoroughly supports Granville Harbour.”

Mr. Green ounded alarm bells, saying Tasmanians should conserve power as the energy crisis lurches towards what he called unchartered territory.

The Liberals have returned fire.

“Mr Green is a johnny-come-lately on the proposed Granville Harbour wind farm,” Adam Brooks, Liberal Member for Braddon.

“I’m glad that he’s following my lead and now supports the project, it’s just a pity he didn’t do anything about it when he was the Minister. I am in ongoing discussions with the Energy Minister about this important project, which I am sure will achieve a lot more than Mr Green ever achieved as Minister.”

The Tasmanian government has accused Labor of employing scare tactics and says the advice it continues to receive indicates there is no need for people to do anything more than what is ” prudent and sensible” in terms of electricity consumption.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; but there are certainly some important lessons to be learned from the crisis. According to pitt&sherry’s Dr. Hugh Saddler, another similar situation could be avoided with more wind power in the state.

“Wind generation is an ideal complement to hydro with storage,” he commented. “In windy conditions, hydro can be turned back, allowing storages to replenish, and subsequently generate at higher levels when there is little or no wind.”

The Tasmanian Greens also want to see double the number of solar power systems installed in the state, supported by a solar feed-in tariff.

Any idea of a second Basslink interconnector in the foreseeable future has been rejected by the Greens.

“The Basslink fault shows how vulnerable we are, and our need for more on-island renewable generation,” said Greens energy spokesperson Rosalie Woodruff.

“Our current situation clearly shows that we should only install a second cable if we’re generating more than 100% renewable power, in drought years as well as wet ones. Without that, we’re still tied to the strings of the mainland’s grubby energy apron.”