Whatever else Tasmanians agree or disagree with in Professor West’s report, they should be grateful for this timely reminder that hydro-industrialisation continues to impose heavy costs on their state. In dollar terms alone, the sale of electricity to these industrial users below cost and way below potential value is costing the State Government up to $220 million in revenue every year.
If two-thirds of Tasmania’s annual electricity generation was to be freed up for purposes other than powering these old and highly energy-intensive plants, a range of options and opportunities would be available.
* a great deal more of the hydro electricity generated could be sold at peak times and peak tariffs via Basslink to mainland Australia
* electricity production could be reduced whenever the hydro storage reservoirs were depleted by drought, restoring some degree of energy security to the system
* the ability of the hydro system to make electricity availabile instantly could enable integration of substantially more eco-friendly wind power into the Tasmanian and national grids - if this one isn’t clear to you the problem space is outlined in these Wikipedia articles:
The most intriguing possibility that gaining control of its electrical energy resource would afford Tasmania is the opportunity to revisit the restoration of Lake Pedder. Draining all or part of the Huon-Serpentine impoundment (the “new” Lake Pedder) need cost less than 20% of the electricity generation capacity of the Middle Gordon scheme.
Restoration of the Lake would bring enormous benefits to Tasmania.
Remember - less than 60 air miles from Hobart, one of the natural wonders of the world lies under less than 40 feet of water. It is submerged in a massive diversion pond (NOT a storage) whose sole purpose is to transfer water to a hydro power station, two thirds of whose output is gifted, below cost and way below potential value, to old-tech secondary industry.
Professor West’s recommendation serves to remind Tasmanians that what had become the political, social, economic and environmental nightmare of hydro-industrialisation did not end when the High Court ruled out the construction of the Gordon-below Franklin dam in July 1983. More than 25 years later, Tasmania - Australia’s poorest state - a rich island full of relatively poor people - continues to bleed revenue and incur household and business energy costs, social costs, environmental costs and opportunity costs resulting from the excesses of hydro-industrialisation.
The case for restoration of Lake Pedder and a wealth of other resources are available from the Lake Pedder Restoration Committee web site:
Professor West’s report points out that these three metallurgical plants consume two-thirds of Tasmania’s annual electricity generation, pay less for it than its cost of production and employ only 1400 people.