Tasmania heading the wrong way on renewable energy

Despite its abundant natural resources of hydro, wind and solar and its renewable energy infrastructure, Tasmania has joined the rest of Australia in doing a U-turn away from a sustainable future.

Figures provided to TREA by Melbourne Energy Institute[1] show that in the financial year just ended, Tasmania spent $34m more buying dirty brown-coal fired electricity from Victorian than it earned exporting renewable energy to the mainland. In the previous two year, Tasmania was a net exporter of electricity.

Hazelwood mine fire. Photo by Keith Pakenham, CFA

Hazelwood mine fire. Photo by Keith Pakenham, CFA

The mechanisms behind this are explained in Glimpsing a Tasmanian export opportunity by Mike Sandiford in The Conversation in March this year.

This mirrors the national figures – in the first full year after the abolition of the carbon tax production of renewable energy has reduced and generation and carbon emissions from brown and black coal have increased[2].

The immediate cause of the Tasmanian turn around was an unsustainable drawing down of dam levels by Hydro Tasmania to maximise income under the carbon tax. However as explained by Mike Sandiford, it does illustrate the potential income that Tasmania could derive from actively promoting renewable energy production.

[1] For the 2014-2015 year, Basslink sent a total of 1.6TWh into Tasmania, and returned 1.1TWh into Victoria.  The values of these transfers were $63m and $28m respectively, such that a net flow of $34m went out of Tasmania. (These figures are based on the public wholesale spot prices at the time of flow. Electricity utilities typically employ hedging contracts to protect against price variability but these are not public.)

[2] CEDEX® Electricity Update July 2015

Author: TREA

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