View of Tarraleah Power Station from the shore

How can Tasmania be the Battery of the Nation?

05 April 2019



 

 

Steve Davy, Chief Executive

 

Battery of the Nation is about helping to secure our energy future – both here in Tasmania and on mainland Australia.

 

For Tasmania, it has three clear objectives – it will put our energy security beyond doubt and give Tasmanians the lowest possible power prices. But thirdly, more interconnection will unlock the island’s renewable energy potential, allowing Tasmania to invest in pumped hydro assets, further develop the state’s unmatched wind resource and make a lot more use of solar energy. 

 

With all of these extra generation options, we’ll produce more than enough energy for ourselves and we can send the extra energy to the mainland to support their transition to renewables. The best bit is that our energy is clean, reliable and affordable so Tasmanians benefit and so does the rest of Australia.

 

Hydro Tasmania’s role in all of this is about changing the way we use our existing hydropower system. We would adopt proven technology in pumped hydro to increase our generation capacity and also improve our current hydropower generation by redeveloping some of our existing assets. 

 

Such projects take years to plan and implement but we need to be ready for the predicted market changes, so work is already well under way on the ground in Tasmania. 

 

So what are the market predictions? Wind and solar power are expected to dominate Australia’s energy future. But these sources are variable – the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow. That means energy storage will be crucial to help balance wind and solar energy in the system. The energy is stored until you need it – like a big battery.

 

Pumped hydro is getting a lot of coverage lately because of its potential to provide the sort of large scale storage that the National Electricity Market will need in the future. And Tasmania has huge potential!

 

Tasmania has natural advantages in developing pumped hydro because we have existing assets and storages, just waiting for the ‘add on’. Pumped hydro systems have an upper and lower reservoir. The water is stored in the upper reservoir, ready to use when electricity is needed. When demand is high and supply is needed, the water can be run through a turbine to the lower reservoir, generating electricity. The water in the lower reservoir gets pumped back uphill using excess electricity in the system from solar and wind, so it can be used again and again.

 

 

Infographic showing how pumped hydro works

 

 

We recently revealed the three sites selected for further investigation into their pumped hydro potential. The sites - at Lake Cethana and Lake Rowallan in the North West, and near Tribute Power Station on the West Coast - emerged as the most promising from the studies carried out over the last 20 months as part of a $2 million study jointly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and Hydro Tasmania.

 

Hydro Tasmania will spend up to $30 million on opportunities across our current assets and to assess the suitability of each of the sites for development. We aim to identify and build the first project so that it can be ready in the next five years. 

 

For example, we are midway through an extensive investigation into the best way to upgrade or replace Tarraleah Power Station and scheme - one of Tasmania’s oldest. The work is part of the feasibility assessment to potentially more than double the station’s current capacity up to 220 MW and markedly improve the scheme’s flexibility in producing energy. 

 

This activity takes us back to the central piece of the plan – all of this development potential strengthens the case for more interconnection across Bass Strait. 

 

Additional interconnection will enable Tasmania to regularly export clean, renewable energy surplus to our needs. This is a crucial point. It will only be when Tasmania’s needs are met and secured that we will then be able to make a significant ongoing contribution to maintaining energy reliability, stability and security on mainland Australia with all the economic benefits returning to the State.

 

More interconnection would also mean we diversify our energy supply options such as developing our wind resource. There are already a number of new wind farm developments planned or under construction with private developers indicating they will ramp up additional investment as confidence grows around the delivery of more interconnection.

 

The second interconnector project - Project Marinus - is being led by our colleagues at TasNetworks. A recent initial feasibility study demonstrates the business case stacks up and federal funds have been allocated to help deliver the project. 

 

Importantly, analysis to date shows the renewable energy developments proposed under Battery of the Nation, including the second interconnector, are extremely cost-effective compared to other realistic options. 

 

Our energy pursuits will spearhead industrial development in Tasmania for many years to come, at a time when other states are still debating which direction to take. They will also provide a long-term economic stimulus to regional areas of Tasmania. The investment in pumped hydro, wind generation, transmission and interconnection will be incremental over decades and focused on areas outside our major population centres. 

 

Battery of the Nation is a Tasmanian project with energy security and the lowest possible power prices at its core. But it is also a nation-building initiative that will see the country’s smallest state play a much bigger and more crucial role in Australia’s energy future.

 

The national market desperately needs credible options for the future and we believe the Battery of the Nation ticks all the boxes. The Federal Government’s recent support through its underwriting new generation investment program confirms this.

 

There is no argument that Battery of the Nation is an ambitious plan. We believe it is a critical part of the solution to Australia’s energy challenges and to support a national market that is already in transition away from coal. But investment decisions are needed now to ensure solutions are available well in advance of an expected energy market shortfall. 

 

This means a lot more work by governments and the private sector working in collaboration to ensure it is done properly and to minimise future reliability and price issues for customers. 

 

That’s a big ask but the progress to date is encouraging. We are seeing Battery of the Nation move from a bold vision to an actionable plan.

 

 

Further information on the Battery of the Nation can be found at www.hydro.com.au/clean-energy/battery-of-the-nation

 

 

This editorial was first published by the Mercury on 5 April 2019

 
 

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