Published: 20 December 2021

One thing I learned from our recent Legislative Council hearings into Hydro Tasmania and Tas Networks was the cavernous disconnect between what may be possible and what may be profitable.

Another interconnector, more wind power and green hydrogen are all perfectly feasible, but will the Tasmanian community be better off? Who benefits and who pays?

One disquieting outcome of questioning Hydro and Tas Networks was that pesky questions about our current situation are either commercial in confidence matters or irrelevant, because what is planned is 'a brand new power system for the 2030s and beyond'.

A wilful disregard of the lessons of history.

Basslink, was supposed to save us but we can't be sure if it's been profitable because that's commercial in confidence. With another 10 years to run on the lease arrangement, we owe more ($903 million) than the original cost of the cable ($875 million), even after outlaying approximately $1.5 billion over the past 15 years.

The claim of Tasmania's world class wind resources is designed to appeal to parochial Tasmanians.

With wind farms at Studland Bay, Bluff Point and Musselroe, Hydro developed a wind farm to supply 10 per cent of our electricity needs, but sold 75 per cent of the project, Woolnorth Wind Farm Holdings P/L (WWF), to a Chinese state-owned company.

In order to effect the sale Hydro had to guarantee future prices of electricity and large scale generation certificates produced by WWF. In the latest year the guarantees cost Hydro $26 million.

Is this the pattern we will see going forward?

Will a large project like Marinus, which can easily be built if someone else pays, then be used as a reason to subsidise the building of more wind farms and other associated projects needed to justify the project in the first place?

Minister Barnett assured us there will be no subsidies. Deflecting genuine questions and using 'look over there' tactics are unhelpful.

For Minister Barnett to suggest that if these arrangements are in Tasmanians' interests it's not a subsidy, because he says so. This is misleading and not supported by the numbers.

An uncertain future awaits us.

The Advocate, Monday December 20 2021

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