Basslink in the News 17.1.16

Basslink

Some years ago a member of my family criticised a suggestion I made about the energy advantages of using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cables to connect electricity grids. I may have inadvertently left the high voltage bit off which detracted from my argument. I also forgot to mention the example functioning on our doorstep – Basslink. For those unaware of Basslink it is an undersea HVDC cable that connects Tasmania to the mainland eastern Australia electricity grid via Bass Strait and south Gippsland.

Basslink is currently in the news as it has recently failed and repairs appear to be taking much longer than originally estimated. The failure is causing political ructions and claims are being made that power rationing in Tasmania may be required. The water stored in Tassie’s hydro-electric dams is very low as the island is experiencing an extremely dry spell heavily influenced by the current El Nino and climate change. Hydro Tasmania also sold off far too much energy whilst the carbon tax was in place to take advantage of price differentials – hydro-electricity as a renewable energy attracted no tax. Prof. Mike Sandiford noted: “that Tasmanian hydro generators have been selling electricity into the mainland market at unprecedented rates, drawing down storage levels dramatically since the carbon price was implemented in July 2012.”  For more details on this go to https://theconversation.com/how-much-will-tasmania-pay-for-shorting-the-carbon-price-29106

As a consequence Hydro Tasmania has had to reopen the Tamar Valley power station – gas powered and expensive – which they had ‘mothballed’. An alternative longer term solution is to have a second cable. Ironically Hydro Tasmania proposed the ‘Taswind’ project in 2012 where a second cable would be routed via King Island in conjunction with a 200 turbine wind farm. This proposal did not go ahead due to ‘economic reasons’ but was probably due to the downgrading of the Renewable Energy Target and the carbon ‘tax’ legislation being repealed. Was this another casualty of the reactionary “anti-climate science’ views of the Abbott government? It’s time to put the ‘Taswind’ project back on the drawing board and into action.