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Weeks to repair Bass Strait link, but Tasmania says no threat to power supply

Weeks to repair Bass Strait link, but Tasmania says no threat to power supply

Tasmania faces six more weeks cut off from the national electricity grid, but authorities are playing down the prospect of another energy crisis and price hikes.

The owners of the Basslink power interconnector beneath Bass Strait yesterday advised repairs to restore power exchange through the cable, out of service since March 24, would take longer than previously thought.

Singapore-owned Basslink Pty Ltd had promised the 290km cable, from George Town in northern Tasmania to Loy Yang in Victoria, would be back in operation this Saturday.

Yesterday it advised May 31 was now the likely date, as it struggles to repair damage to a high-pressure system at a Victorian converter station. “For the past week, Basslink has worked around the clock in liaison with its manufacturing partners to develop a ­repair and re-pressurisation procedure, source the necessary people and equipment, and finalise all associated logistics,” the company said.

“While discussion around a number of these aspects continues, based on the latest available information, the anticipated ­return-to-service date has been revised to May 31.’’

There is a sense of deja vu for Tasmanians in the developments, after the state had an energy crisis in 2016 because of a six-month Basslink outage from December 2015, which coincided with depleted hydro-electricity storage. The state government is already seeking $122 million in compensation from Basslink for that prolonged outage, a dispute likely to be heading for court.

Hydro Tasmania chief executive Stephen Davy said he was confident the latest prolonged outage would not threaten the state’s energy security.

“The extended Basslink outage is not ideal, but it doesn’t meaningfully affect Tasmania’s energy security,” he said. “Autumn has produced good above-average (hydro-electricity dam) inflows so far. We expect to manage comfortably without the ability to import.

“Hydro Tasmania storages were at 37 per cent on Monday. That’s an extremely secure level as we approach the wettest months of the year. It’s well above the high reliability level set by the (state) Energy Security Taskforce.”

State Energy Minister Guy Barnett said the extended outage was “very disappointing … and unacceptable” but would not threaten energy security, given the Tamar Valley gas-fired power station was ready for use if needed.

Mr Barnett refused to guarantee that the extra costs associated with gas generation, and the loss of revenue because the state was unable to export power to Victoria, would not be passed on to consumers. The government is understood to be planning legislation to peg power price rises to the inflation rate.

The Australian

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