Hydro Tasmania agrees load cuts with biggest customer as hydro dries up

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Hydro Tasmania says it has reached an agreement with its biggest customer – the Bell Bay Aluminium smelter – to help it manage the record lows in its hydro storage and the cut to the Basslink connection to the mainland.

bell bayThe state has had to bring back its mothballed gas generators to cope with demand, because its efforts to replenish its water resources have been hampered by record low spring rainfall, and the loss of inflows from the mainland. In addition, several hydro power plants have been in and out of service due to bushfires threatening power lines.

On Thursday, Bell Bay Aluminium, which accounts for around one quarter of the state’s electricity demand, said it had agreed to cut its load by around 10 per cent, or 30MW – 40MW – the second major energy user to cut its load in response to the crisis.

Bell Bay said the load cuts would take effect immediately, and could last up to four to five months. The move is likely to result in job losses, at least among contractors.

“Tasmania currently faces a challenging time due to the combination of historically low dam storage levels, the lowest spring rainfall on record and the extended outage of the Basslink cable,” the company said in a statement.

“We have reached an agreement with Hydro Tasmania on the best energy savings measure we can provide to assist with managing Tasmania’s energy security during this difficult time.”


The loss of Basslink is also likely to affect the state’s internet service, with warnings that the fibre connection within Basslink will be out of service for at least a month as repairs take place. It could be several months before the connection to the mainland is replaced. The service was lost on December 20.

Electricity prices have soared to more tun $110/MWh – three times its average – because of the use of gas-fired generation.

TEMCO, the operator of the country’s only manganese alloy smelter, has already volunteered to cut its demand in half – down to 30MW – to try to ease the problem.

The government said last month is confident that it will not have to impose power restrictions on other users, but the Bell Bay agreement suggests it is concerned that the problems will continue, and its reserves deplete further.


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  • Beat Odermatt

    I fail to understand why Tasmania does not have more wind power. The numerous dams are suitable for pumped storage. I am sure that Tasmania could be the power house of the south and not only supply all of its electricity needs but it could also help the poor Victorians to wean of brown coal.

    • Charles

      Tassie has another 3-4 wind farms in planning stages. These include Cattle Hill in the central highlands (about 240 MW) and Robbins Island wind farm in the north-west (about 440 MW). I believe they got delayed due to the carbon tax / RET uncertainty over the past couple of years, but to be honest, who knows – despite the local media here writing a new story about the “energy crisis” every day, there hasn’t been any updates on these.

    • juxx0r

      I agree that tassie should have more wind and plan to continuously export. Why anyone would want to pump water uphill instead of just leaving it uphill is beyond me though.

      • Beat Odermatt

        It is a good way to get a better return for renewable energy. If the price wind farms are getting for their power, they can “store” the energy and use it later when the demand and price is higher. This practice has been in place in Europe for many years. If there is a surplus of wind power then the surplus is stored in dams across the alps. It gives solar and wind power an opportunity to become truly available to all customers for 24 hours a day every day.

        • juxx0r

          I dont get how some magical pumps are required to make dams work. Please explain. Please also explain how we are going to make up the 15% efficiency loss.

          • Beat Odermatt

            I assume you have a computer and google. You can do some research on pumped storage in Europe and you will find out all the answers to your questions. You will detailed reports why they do it. We are living with a 60% plus efficiency loss from coal fired power station for many years. This would be something to be worried about!

          • juxx0r

            Tasmania has 2.3GW of Hydro. But it needs to pump it back up just to be able to export 0.5GW? I’m still at a loss to understand why Tassie needs to pump anything to gain capacitance.

          • Beat Odermatt

            Please do some background study and all will be clear, even to you.

          • juxx0r


          • Beat Odermatt

            Yes, not for a few years. If Tasmania gets its fingers out, it can be a great exporter of clean energy. SA has already achieved 100% renewables but during night hours when the demand is low. A company wants to make money out of renewables and money is made when there is peak demand. Why would you sell power for virtually nothing during times of low demand if you can earn a good dollar a few hours later? There is something called common sense and some companies have it.

          • juxx0r

            I would like to subscribe to your spreadsheet.

            Lazard in their levelised cost of storage analysis puts pumped hydro at 18.8c/kWh.

            Even if it was free, it’s got me beat how you arbitrage against a 2.3GW behemoth in a 1.5GW market.

          • Beat Odermatt

            Every company is doing its own costing and every accountant or engineer is doing his or her own calculations to provide proof for their arguments. The fact is that Tasmania has virtually unlimited wind and wave power and is lucky enough to have great potential for pumped storage. I am sure that the current small mini-market of Tasmania does not justify spending much money unless there is an opportunity to export it to the mainland at an profit.

          • juxx0r

            I dont get how using hydro, then un-using it via pumps is preferable to not using it in the first place.

            Now i get it when then there’s too much power to be used or exported, but it would take Tassie one hell of a windy day and an extra 1.5GW of Wind that they dont currently have before it got to that point.

            My point is that Tassie would be better off with more wind than with pumps.

            And even if tassie installed 1.5GW of wind it still wouldn’t need pumps, because on average it would have enough power from the wind and hydro.

            Tassie has too much hydro to need pumps. It only needs pumps with a lot more wind and a lot more demand. However with more demand, that lessens the need for pumps.

            No pumps required for the foreseeable forever.

      • Sim

        It makes solar and wind power feasible. When there is no production of these 2, the hydropower kicks in rather than using coal, gas or oil( Even nuclear in other countries). Thus all is renewable.

        • juxx0r

          It’s like the words i write have no meaning…..

          • Sim


    • Smurf1976

      The underlying problem is not a lack of electricity production capability and nor is it the failure of Basslink or the drought.

      The dams were *intentionally* run low in order to act as a prop for the state’s finances. That’s the crux of it.

      Adding more wind power, another dam or even something like a coal-fired plant would not have changed the situation in the slightest. Storages would still have been drained as a means of attempting to conceal the budget deficit (depleting storages rather than depleting cash).

  • Tim Forcey

    More wind power needed in Tas for sure, about 1.4 GW? See

  • Tim Forcey
  • Malcolm M

    Tassie has another benefit in its wind resource, that winds on the western coast are poorly correlated with winds on its eastern coast. Production from its 2 large wind farms – Woolnorth on its western coast and Musselroe on its eastern coast – rarely peak at the same time. Compare that with SA and Vic, where production peaks often coincide.

  • Glen S

    So, to increase energy security in Tasmania Harriss is proposing…… burning forest waste. How very innovative to implement such a form of “renewable” energy. More carbon in the air will fix climate change for sure!