Tasmanian electricity export plan charges up

Tasmania could export renewable energy to mainland states as part of their plan to become the “Battery of the Nation”, a new report has confirmed.

With support from ARENA, Hydro Tasmania has been developing a blueprint for the role the state can play in Australia’s electricity market as renewable energy makes up a greater share of our energy supply.

The research was commissioned to assess the viability of a goal set by the state and federal governments to double Tasmania’s hydroelectricity output to power 500,000 homes.

The project’s latest findings were released last week, confirming it is viable for Tasmanian generators to become bigger players in the National Electricity Market over the next two decades.

Hydroelectricity has supplied the majority of Tasmania’s electricity since the first public plant opened on the Great Lake more than 100 years ago.

Today, more than 90 per cent of the state’s electricity is supplied by the network of hydroelectric power stations, with wind and small-scale solar filling any shortfalls.

While hydro has provided baseline energy to the state for a century, mainland states have been fuelled primarily by coal-fired power plants.

It’s great news that renewables are growing at a record rate, but the growth in variable sources of energy like wind and solar is bringing new challenges for electricity markets that have historically been supplied by baseload coal generators.

Wind and solar are the cheapest new sources of electricity, but their inherent variability means more storage will be needed to deliver a stable and balanced supply of energy.

Hydro Tasmania has explored the opportunity for Tasmania to become the “Battery of the Nation” by expanding existing hydroelectric assets and constructing 2500MW of new pumped hydro.

The new research found that additional interconnection capacity would unlock Tasmania’s potential to export renewable energy to mainland states.

Boosting interconnection would pave the way for Tasmania to unlock its significant wind resources, diversifying the NEM by generating electricity at different times to mainland wind farms.

ARENA has made $2.5 million available to scope the “Battery of the Nation” project, with $500,000 allocated to assessing the potential role of Tasmanian renewable energy in the future Australian Energy Market.

ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht said “Tasmania’s vast pumped hydro and renewable energy reserves place it in a great position to increase capacity to the NEM.”

“As renewable energy grows to comprise a larger percentage of the nation’s electricity the importance of storage for reliability also increases. The Battery of the Nation has the potential to provide for the future needs of the NEM,” he said.

ARENA has also provided $10 million for TasNetworks to develop a business case for a second interconnector, which will be vital for Tasmania to export more energy to mainland states.

“A new connection between the island state and the mainland could help to harness the power of Tasmania’s wind, and the considerable potential for new pumped hydro energy storage,” Mr Frischknecht said.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Steve Davy said the work confirms there’s potential in Tasmania to meet Australia’s future energy needs.

“Two things are now official: Battery of the Nation stacks up very well; and Tasmania can deliver on the opportunity.”

“Of course, we need more interconnection to succeed. Even with that interconnection cost, the Future State NEM analysis confirms Battery of the Nation is a front-runner that’s extremely competitive and cost-effective,” he said.