More delays for Basslink cable repair, but Minister says energy security ‘not at risk’

Tasmanians are being reassured there is no threat to power supplies as repairs to the electricity and communications undersea cable that connects Tasmania to the mainland are delayed again.

The electricity interconnector attached to the Basslink undersea power cable was damaged in late March by a Victorian subcontractor undertaking routine maintenance.

The 298-kilometre cable — which connects Tasmania to the national electricity grid, as well as fibre optics for data — has not been delivering electricity to the state since the damage.

Basslink chief executive Malcolm Eccles said the delay was due to logistics and scheduling challenges beyond the control of Basslink.

“Due to the highly specialised nature of the equipment needed for the repair, as well as the time needed to source the required expertise, the repair is taking longer than expected,” he said.

The delay is the second since the damage, with the first return-to-service date marked for April 14, which was then pushed back to May 31.

It is now expected to be repaired by June 5.

‘No issue for energy security’: Hydro Tasmania

Hydro Tasmania chief executive Steve Davy said the delay posed no threat for Tasmania’s energy security.

“Autumn has produced good above-average inflows so far. Tasmanian demand can be comfortably met by on-island generation [by] hydropower, wind and gas,” he said.

“Hydro Tasmania storages were at 37.6 per cent on Monday. That’s an extremely secure level as we approach the wettest months of the year.

“It’s also well above the High Reliability Level set by the Energy Security Taskforce.”

In a statement, Energy Minister Guy Barnett also stressed energy security was not in danger.

“Tasmanians can be assured our energy security is not at risk. We will continue to monitor this situation closely,” he said.

A fault located in the Basslink cable


A failure in the Basslink cable contributed to the Tasmanian energy crisis starting in December 2015, when a major outage put the cable out of operation for almost six months.

Coupled with almost-record low hydro reserves, the State Government was forced to ship in 80 diesel generators and fire up the Tamar Valley Power Station to keep the lights on.

The crisis prompted a parliamentary inquiry into how it all happened, with Basslink and Hydro Tasmania offering different explanations for the failure of the cable.

Basslink concluded the cause of the failure was unknown, but Hydro Tasmania blamed the cable operator, claiming the cable was overused, causing it to degrade.

The State Government adopted Hydro’s explanation, demanding millions of dollars in compensation from Basslink.

The dispute between the Government and the cable operator went into arbitration in April.

An independent report could not identify the ultimate cause of the fault.

The extended outage cost Hydro Tasmania $140 million.

This article was written and published as part of my work for the ABC. It was published on Friday 25/5/18. It can be found here: 

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