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Minister dismisses Opposition claims of power rationing with Hydro Tasmania dam levels set to fall to 16pc

By Ellen Coulter, Monday January 11, 2016 - 20:10 EDT
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The Government rejects Opposition claims power rationing may be need because of diminishing water levels in Hydro Tasmania dams. - ABC

Tasmania's Energy Minister has insisted Hydro Tasmania can meet the state's energy needs despite falling dam water levels and Opposition claims power rationing may be needed.

Hydro Tasmania's dam storage levels are at 21.2 per cent, down from 22.5 per cent a week ago.

It is now projected levels will drop to 16 per cent by the end of April.

Energy Minister Matthew Groom said that was similar to 2008 storage levels when there was a drought in Tasmania.

despite growing pressure from farmers to discuss assistance.

Mr Groom said the state was facing challenging circumstances.

"Hydro expects water levels to bottom out at about 16 per cent towards the end of April," he said.

"I want to repeat the point that Hydro continues to provide an assurance to the Government and to the people to Tasmania that is it in a position to meet Tasmania's energy needs."

Opposition MP Rebecca White said power rationing could be on the cards.

"There is quite a real risk that will be required," she said.

But the Minister said Hydro could meet Tasmania's energy needs.

"The advice that we've got from Hydro is that it continues to be in that position," he said.

No word yet on Basslink repairs

The Minister is expecting to get an update this week about when the Basslink interconnector will be repaired.

The undersea cable which links Tasmania with the mainland has been down since before Christmas, with the operators saying it would be repaired within 60 days.

Up until the outage, the state had been importing about 40 per cent of its power needs because of low dam storages.

Ms White said that when dam levels were low in the 2008 drought, the Basslink was the key difference.

"The difference then is that we had Basslink to provide extra power to Tasmania. We have no Basslink," she said.

Mr Groom accused Labor of scaremongering about an energy crisis.

It was pointed out to him that the Liberals questioned the security of Tasmania's power supply when they were in Opposition.

"They were the comments of an opposition that hadn't been in government for a long time," Mr Groom said.

"We're talking about an Opposition that was in government two years ago."

Hydro Tasmania's projections of storage levels recovering after April rely on rainfall over autumn.

"We should be, well beyond summer, starting to move into a time when we would expect there to be more rainfall particularly into the west of the state," forecaster Rachel McInerney said.

Too soon to predict financial hit: Groom

Drought or not, Hydro's finances are expected to take a hit as it waits for repairs to the Basslink interconnector .

But the Minister is not predicting how big it will be.

He said it was too early to put a number on the likely revenue hit.

"The low inflows will have a significant financial impact on Tasmania," Mr Groom said.

"It's too premature to understand the full extent of that.

"Where you have low inflows, that impacts Hydro's capacity to raise revenue and there's no doubt this will have a significant financial impact for this year."


© ABC 2016

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