Tasmania’s energy future: fossil or renewable?

The current Tasmanian energy crisis confronts us with a start choice for the energy future of Tasmania, either a retreat to fossil fuels, or an opportunity to take immediate action to ensure that the state has a future powered by renewable energy.

Tasmania’s hydro dam levels have dropped every year since the 2012 peak of 62%. Spring 2015 saw inflows fall to less than half of the previous lowest record for that period, resulting in capacity at 25% on 20 December 2015. On that date the Basslink cable, which had been importing 40% of the electricity used in Tasmania failed. The fault has still not been located and there is no scheduled repair date.

Current emergency measures to meet the energy demand include recommissioning the Tamar Valley Power Station and hiring 200 MW of diesel generators.

Even with the Tamar Valley Power Station running flat out, and our existing wind capacity, hydro is meeting 70% of our energy needs and dam levels are still dropping.

The core problems is that long term sustainable yield from existing hydro assets and the two existing wind farms is less than annual consumption.  In normal operation Basslink makes up any difference, but this makes it very difficult to make a big impact on storage levels and explains why over the long term Basslink imports more than it exports.

Data source: http://www.hydro.com.au/water/energy-data

Even if Basslink is fixed soon and rainfall returns to normal there will be a significant challenge to meet the shortfall and rebuild our storages. The government has already flagged that the “longer term strategy now includes securing more gas turbines to expand the Tamar Valley Power Station”.[1]

We believe that a combination of wind, solar and small ‘run-of-river’ hydro can meet our electricity needs and build back our storage levels to provide energy security. The government needs to set out a plan to meet this objective as soon as possible. In the meantime we need a greater emphasis on demand management and energy efficiency which can bring our energy demand and supply into balance more cheaply than running diesel generators.

A variety of sources and locations for new renewable energy generation has many benefits:

  • spreading the economic benefit widely across the state,
  • tapping multiple sources of public and private capital,
  • minimising environmental impact in any one location,
  • increasing resilience to changing economics and circumstances,
  • minimising the need for expensive new transmission infrastructure, and
  • getting started faster.

What you can do

  • Make a submission in response to Tasmania’s draft climate change action plan 2016-2021. Submissions are due by 25 March 2015.
  • Email matthew.groom@parliament.tas.gov.au and tell him why you think Tasmania’s future energy security should come from local renewable energy rather than imported gas and Victorian electricity via Basslink.

More information

Tasmania’s crazy lurch back into the (expensive) fossil fuel era, Giles Parkinson 7 Mar 2016

Basslink: A short summary of risks …, Chris Harries, 29 Jan 2016
History of Basslink and risks and issues in building a second link.

How much new renewable energy does Tasmania need? Jack Gilding, 22 Feb 2016
Includes estimates of how much distributed renewable energy capacity would be needed to meet Tasmania’s current shortfall in renewable energy generation and rebuild storage levels.


[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-23/tasmanian-government-considers-long-term-loss-of-basslink-cable/7192408 24 Feb 2016.

Author: TREA

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