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Working in Tasmania stories

$20m for 2nd power cable study

Edition 190_Daly

The State and Federal governments will jointly fund a $20 million business case study into a second Bass Strait electricity inter-connector that will be needed if Tasmania is to become the battery of the nation.

Earlier this year, the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, unveiled his battery of the nation concept involving up to $5 billion in infrastructure investment in Tasmania.

But the mega-project, with the prospect of 3,000 jobs, would not be feasible without a second undersea cable.

In November, Australia's Minister for Environment and Energy, Josh Frydenberg, said: “Preliminary findings from ... work by Hydro Tasmania indicate a second inter-connector could enable Tasmania to expand its wind and hydro capabilities and add more power to the national grid, with a net benefit of $500 million.”

Mr Frydenberg leaked the decision to The Mercury on the eve of his meeting in Hobart with State energy ministers at the COAG Energy Council.

“As the next step, a business case study would examine and finalise the preferred route, optimum size, cost estimate, revenue investment test and financial model for a second inter-connector between Tasmania and Victoria," Mr Frydenberg said.

“This is the next step in tapping the potential of Tasmania to expand its substantial renewable energy base and provide even more affordable, reliable energy to the national grid.”

The existing 290km Basslink cable, which was placed on the market in November by its Singaporean owner Keppel Infrastructure Trust, cost $800 million to build before being commissioned in 2006.

John Tamblyn, a former Chairman of the Australian Energy Market Commission, estimated the cost of a second cable at up to $1.1 billion.

Basslink's failure during the winter of 2016 coincided with record low storage levels in Hydro Tasmania's dams and created a State electricity crisis.

The Tasmanian Government subsequently pledged to increase renewable generation in Tasmania by 1,000 megawatt/hours (MW) to enhance energy security.

Mr Frydenberg said the Federal Government was already investing in Tasmanian projects, including a feasibility study into 2,500MW of pumped hydro storage at 13 short-listed sites, a UTAS stocktake of the country’s tidal energy resources and a smart grid project on Bruny Island.

A few days before Mr Frydenberg's disclosure, Australia's Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, had released a report that found pumped hydro to be a low-risk, low-impact technology, generally cheaper than battery storage and certainly cheaper than keeping coal-fired power plants on stand-by to back up renewable generation.

Dr Finkel's report was endorsed by the Australian Council of Learned Academies.

Pumped hydro is a system where water used to generate electricity is pumped back uphill to an elevated reservoir using cheap energy, such as wind.

It can then be run back downhill through turbines at opportune times, particularly when energy demand – and prices – are high.

Tasmania has about 2,050 potential pumped-hydro sites and studies have short-listed the best 13 of them, all in the west or north-west.

Hydro Tasmania has ruled out projects in World Heritage Areas and sites are being assessed for technical feasibility, topography, environmental sensitivity, land use constraints, road access, access to the power grid, proximity to existing renewable energy assets, construction risks and capital costs.

The President of the World Wind Energy Association, Peter Rae, said Tasmania’s potential had been discussed at recent United Nations climate talks in Germany.

“In Australia, Tasmania has the best situation to be able to provide pumped storage and I believe that was something which was talked about a great deal,” Mr Rae, a former Chairman of Hydro Tasmania, said.

He said fast-moving technological developments in the past 15 years had made wind and solar energy cheaper than it had been only a few years earlier.

Because of changing economics, private investors have announced new wind-energy projects at Wild Cattle Hill, Granville Harbour, Robbins Island/Jims Plains and Low Head.

The five projects involve investment of more than $2 billion, with around 410 turbines to be built, delivering more than 1,200 MW of new generation capacity.

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) has already committed up to $2.5 million towards feasibility studies on pumped hydro and the expansion of two existing hydro-electric power stations in Tasmania.

The Federal funding has been matched by Hydro Tasmania.

A third study focusing on expanding Tasmania’s role in supporting the National Electricity Market is being scoped.

ARENA's Chief Executive Officer, Ivor Frischknecht, said: “These feasibility studies are the first step towards significantly upgrading or replacing some of Tasmania’s existing power stations and introducing pumped-hydro energy storage.

“We could more than double Tasmania’s hydro capacity and power an additional 500,000 households. Tasmania could play a crucial role in helping to provide secure, reliable – and renewable – electricity for the National Energy Market.”

ARENA is also supporting interstate studies into Snowy Hydro 2.0, as well as pumped-hydro projects in Spencer Gulf, South Australia, and Kidston, Queensland.

The CEO of Hydro Tasmania, Steve Davy, said: “As Australia’s largest generator of renewable energy, Hydro has the skills and experience to drive an energy future that’s clean, reliable and affordable.

"With the support of ARENA, Hydro Tasmania is conducting pre-feasibility studies into the redevelopment of the Tarraleah Power Scheme and the augmentation of the Gordon Power Station."

Mr Davy said doubling Tasmania's renewable energy capacity would address three big challenges.

"It will lock in full energy security for Tasmania; help give Tasmanians some of the nation's cheapest power prices; and give us plenty of spare energy to support mainland Australia," he said.

Mr Davy said Hydro Tasmania would look into the case for making a bid for Basslink.

Tasmania's Minister for Resources, Guy Barnett, said the battery of the nation concept would deliver investment, growth and jobs, particularly in the regions.

"Tasmania does renewable energy really well," he said.

Earlier, Australian National University's Professor Andrew Blakers, a prominent proponent of pumped hydro, said Tasmania’s potential to contribute significantly to the national electricity network would be “utterly constrained” until there was a second inter-connector.

He said Tasmania, including King Island, had better wind power and pumped hydro possibilities than Victoria.

“The question is: ‘Is the wind power and pumped hydro potential in Victoria cheaper or more expensive than the wind power and pumped hydro in Tasmania when the cost of the inter-connector is added’," he said.

The $20 million business-case study will answer that question.

Meanwhile, annual reports released in October by Hydro Tasmania and Aurora Energy show the State-owned energy businesses to be in sound financial positions and ready for fresh challenges.

The Premier, Will Hodgman, said: "Clearly, 2015-16 was a difficult time for Tasmania’s energy businesses and the fact that both businesses have performed strongly in 2016-17 is welcomed."

Hydro Tasmania has restored its water storages to above 45 per cent and made an underlying profit of $20.1 million in 2016-17.

Aurora Energy recorded a profit of $19.4 million and delivered $35.4 million to State coffers.

Aurora Energy coordinated a successful $20 million Tasmanian Energy Efficiency Loan Scheme that provides no-interest finance of up to $10,000 for households and $40,000 for small businesses to invest in energy-efficient products.

Mr Hodgman, said the battery of the nation project would set Tasmania up for the next 100 years.

Footnote: The ARENA-funded project on Bruny Island is based on about 35 subsidised battery systems installed in homes with solar panels. A computerised system run by TasNetworks tells residents, in real time, the price they will be paid if they contribute their stored power to the Bruny Network at times of high demand. ARENA contributed nearly $3 million to the project in the hope that it would reduce diesel generation on the island in times of peak demand, while also providing a prototype for a possible national rollout of the concept.

Image courtesy of Hydro Tasmania

5 December 2017, Edition 190

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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