Tasmania has the potential to become the envy of the world when it comes to renewable energy, according to our leaders.
There is no doubt energy was a hot topic in 2016.
This time last year, Tasmania had a broken Basslink cable and it would not be fixed for another five months.
Hydro Tasmania’s water storage levels were down to 19 per cent, but had dipped lower in previous months.
Not long before the Basslink cable broke, the government had given approval for Hydro Tasmania to decommission and sell the combined cycle gas turbine at the Tamar Valley Power Station, which would later become an essential piece of infrastructure.
As the crisis unfolded, the importance of the power station became clear, it was not sold, and was eventually up and running again.
This crisis led to the establishment of an Energy Security Taskforce which, in its interim report, found the state had a deficit of renewable energy generation and that more on-island hydro-electric and wind generation was needed.
“A more secure setting would be created if this deficit was reduced or eliminated by new entrant renewable energy developments,” the report said.
Already, renewable energy is meeting an average of 80 per cent of Tasmania’s energy demands.
But questions have been raised over whether enough is being done to attract further renewable energy investment into the state.
In some ways, the future of energy usage across the globe is uncertain – the weather cannot always be predicted and climate change is rapidly influencing the planet.
Climate Tasmania co-convener Philip Harrington said Tasmania had a lot of lessons to learn from last year’s events.
“We consume more electricity every year than we produce and the real problem is that we haven’t invested enough in new, renewable energy projects," Mr Harrington said.
“We need to anticipate climate change a whole lot better than we have been.
“We need to manage our storages more prudentially, understanding there will be greater variability in rainfall than we’ve seen in the past."
Tasmania already has several wind farms and hundreds of wind turbines operating in the state, and hydro power has always been a strength.
On top of this, the Australian Maritime College in conducting tests into tidal energy, something they say is highly predictable and non-intrusive.
But Tasmanian Renewable Energy Alliance executive officer Jack Gilding said the state was still importing too much energy through the Basslink cable.
“The absolute beauty of Tasmania’s situation is that anything you do with solar or wind, we don’t need to worry too much about the intermittent nature of it,” he said.
“We’ve got the hydro which can generate a lot of electricity but it can’t do it all the time.
“Any time of the day that you generate electricity with solar or wind is saving running water out of the dams and then that gives you energy security.”
Hydro Tasmania acting chief executive Andrew Catchpole said there were lessons to be learnt from the Basslink outage, but storage was looking on track for the next six months.
“The energy supply challenge has uncovered new evidence about just how dry spring and summer in Tasmania can now be, and how long Basslink can potentially be out of action,” Mr Catchpole said.
“Subject to average inflows, we’ve set a storage target of at least 30 per cent on 30 June, 2017. We don’t expect any difficulties in meeting that target.”
In recent years, each Tasmanian political party has shared their energy goals.
The government’s energy strategy aims to reinforce Tasmania’s reputation as the renewable energy state, the Opposition would build an additional 500 megawatts of wind and solar capacity, and the Greens would aim for 100 per cent renewables.
Energy Minster Matthew Groom admitted that it had been a challenging year, but said Tasmania had a bright renewable energy future.
“We want to explore the potential for further renewable development and to properly understand the role Tasmania can play in contributing clean energy into the national market,” he said.
“We’ve got some of the best, untapped renewable resources in the world – in many respects we’re the envy of the world.”
Talks of a second Basslink interconnector have been raised since the energy crisis, but energy advocates have said the money would be better spent on diversifying renewable energy.
Mr Groom reaffirmed that the interconnector had the potential to be a part of the national infrastructure.
“We can have further renewable development in Tasmania even before a second link might emerge,” he said.
“The Tasmanian government would never support a second link if it’s to the detriment of the Tasmanian people or if it has an adverse cost impact.”
Greens energy spokeswoman Rosalie Woodruff said if the island wanted to be truly secure in its renewable energy, diversity was the key.
“We want cheap renewable power for everyone, regardless of where you live or how much you earn,” Dr Woodruff said.
“We can’t continue to pretend that climate change isn’t happening, and we have to cut our ties with fossil fuels sooner rather than later.”
Opposition Leader Bryan Green said Labor’s plans were bold.
“An additional 500 megawatts would be a huge step towards being self-sustainable and would build the business case for a second Bass Strait interconnector,” he said.
“Labor will work with private enterprise to facilitate the deployment of hydrogen technologies in the state and establish supply chains that will enable us to seize on these new opportunities.”
With changes in climate and the energy crisis fresh in the minds of Tasmanians, time will tell if the state can truly be a world leader in the business of renewables.