The State Government is rejecting an energy expert’s claim that its failure to recoup $180 million spent mitigating last year’s energy crisis has pushed up household power bills.
The six-month crisis was triggered by the failure of the undersea Basslink cable in December 2015, combined with record low Hydro Tasmania dam levels.
It cost the State Government about $180 million to secure Tasmania’s power supply including shipping in 100 back-up diesel generators.
Energy analyst Marc White said the public was paying more for energy which had already gone up in price due to movements in the national market.
“Hydro Tasmania has had to cover those costs, which obviously flows onto government dividends, but also to some we expect that consumers have been burdened by higher wholesale costs,” he said.
Instead of pursuing the money through the courts, the state-owned Hydro Tasmania clawed some back by withholding the fee it pays Basslink each month.
Basslink concluded the cause of the fault was unknown and that it was not liable to pay compensation.
That claim was rejected by the former Energy Minister Matthew Groom.
But on Friday, at the launch of the Cattle Hill windfarm project, the new Energy Minister Guy Barnett did not back that position.
“That is a matter for Hydro and Basslink, those discussions are ongoing,” he said.
“It is an important matter and I am looking forward to ongoing monitoring of that matter.
“What is of utmost importance is reliability of supply for Tasmanians — the dams will not be drained on my watch.”
A spokesman for Hydro Tasmania would not state how much money had been recouped from Basslink, but said talks were ongoing and there had been no bearing on Tasmanian energy security or prices.
Mr White said he doubted the Government would pursue legal action against Basslink.
“We would have expected that an action might have been launched 12 months ago, but given there hasn’t been any announcements show it is unlikely at this stage,” he said.
Opposition wants figures released
Labor’s Energy spokesman Scott Bacon said the Government should come clean about how much of taxpayers dollars had been recouped from Basslink “so that the Tasmanian people including the Opposition, can see exactly what the next step should be”.
Greens MP Rosalie Woodruff said it was not good enough for the Energy Minister to defer to Hydro.
“He is, ultimately, responsible to Tasmanians for the price of energy,” she said.
“Mr Barnett needs to tell Tasmanians how much did the energy crisis cost, how much have we been able to recover from Basslink.”
Energy analyst Phil Harrington was less concerned about Tasmanians bearing the cost of the energy crisis through their bills.
“They do need to recoup that cost but they will recoup that from their market trading activities primarily over time,” he said.
Mr Harrington said there was a risk the cable could break again.
“You can never rule it out that is for sure, and I think we have a number of options to manage that risk,” he said.
“Of those options, essentially growing our on-state renewable energy capacity is probably the most attractive.”