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Tamar Valley Power Station - Ongoing Availability

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Wednesday, 24 November 2021

Tags: Renewable Energy

Dr WOODRUFF (Franklin) - Mr Deputy Speaker, when the Labor Party puts up a motion that has the words 'energy', 'gas' and 'energy security taskforce' in it, the first thing I do on behalf of the Tasmanian Greens is look at it through a climate change lens. We are facing, collectively and planetarily, a climate and biodiversity crisis. We have only just two weeks ago seen the end of the Glasgow Conference of the Parties 26 talks and the United Nations' Antonio Guterres reminded us, in case we needed reminding - and maybe the Labor Party needs reminding - that we are in a code red for humanity.

I try to say that with a light tone in my voice but it is a serious, urgent situation. National governments around the world failed to make the commitments to urgent country level cuts that the scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demanded must be taken in order to avoid dangerous, accelerating climate heating. This is where we are. The Greens represent everyone in Tasmania who is concerned about the situation with the evolving planet heating. We represent the scientists from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) and CSIRO who contributed to the IPCC's report. We represent the children at the School Strike for Climate and their concerns about their future, and their calls for their leaders to take meaningful action. That is the frame within which we look at a motion on energy, energy security and gas.

What I see in this, the final call from the Labor Party, is for the minister for Energy to intervene in the Tas Gas Pipeline contract renegotiation process to ensure, quote, 'the ongoing availability of the Tamar Valley Power Station'. What the Labor Party is calling for is a forever gas contract in perpetuity.

Mr Winter - No, five years.

Dr WOODRUFF - No, 'ongoing availability' are the words in the motion, Mr Winter. We look at that from the lens of taking serious climate action. We know, on first principles, that we have to end fossil fuel use, so we cannot agree to a motion that talks about ensuring the ongoing availability of gas.

We believe the Government, the minister for Energy, is failing in its responsibility to have a plan to transition from gas, to have a timeline to move from our reliance on gas because there is no doubt - and the minister confirmed this - that Tasmania still continues to use fossil fuels despite the fact that we present ourselves as being 100 per cent renewable. This was confirmed in the questions that I asked the minister in Estimates in September this year.

The Office of Economic Regulator's report made the assumption that the annual gas generation in 2016 was 1752 gigawatts and that was because of the energy crisis. In 2019 20 there were, nonetheless, still 100 gigawatt hours being used. This year that has just gone, the Economic Regulator has made an assessment that 67 gigawatt hours of gas have been used. We are still using gas for power in Tasmania and we must urgently transition out of using all fossil fuels.

The IPCC says that we have to have a target of 75 per cent reduction in our global emissions by 2030. That is eight years and 11 months away. So, we cannot support this motion. We would prefer there to be a motion that recognises that we are still dependent on using fossil fuel and we have to urgently end our dependency on that. We have to throw everything and the kitchen sink at this. We have to make sure that every dollar we spend on advancing renewable energy transitions so that we are truly green in every part of the state's usage are in all of our industries. We have to electrify Tasmania. We have to put all of our energy first onto our island, take responsibility for what we are producing and using here as a state. The Government's first responsibility is to take carriage for what we are emitting and what we are requiring to import from the mainland so that we can end our reliance on fossil fuels.

I asked the minister about the Tas Gas situation because I, as a member of parliament, have received a stream of promotional materials from Font PR, which were Liberal Party chief of staff and other staffers until just five minutes ago. Font PR has been doing the work on behalf of Tas Gas and the Tas Gas Pipeline over the last few months to drum up the situation, to best promote the interests of Tas Gas in the renegotiation of their contracts which, as the minister has confirmed, are coming up imminently.

There is no doubt that the fossil fuel industry is worried that they are looking to be displaced by renewable energy, and rightly so. They should be worried. The Government should be doing everything possible to negotiate a contract that, ultimately, will see the end of this island's reliance on Tas Gas and see a replaceable energy source be developed for the transition that we are all collectively going through.

I want to bring the minister's attention to a report. He ended by talking about Marinus, and it is appropriate that we have a public conversation about Marinus. What we have heard in Tasmania is election doorstop conference announcements about Marinus, reannouncements of the same thing about how it is going to bring vast billions of dollars to Tasmania and vast thousands of jobs forever, and will support the construction industry in Tasmania. At least, that is how the Liberals at the federal and state level present it to Tasmanians.

What is silent is the plan for the cost and the real time frame for the construction, the details of the business viability for Marinus. We have had lots of puff pieces from TasNetworks but we have not had any real assessment of why TasNetworks continues to maintain that Marinus will be an essential part of the Australian energy market.

Just today, we have had a report released by Dr Bruce Mountain from the University of Victoria's Victoria Energy Policy Centre. It is the second report Dr Mountain has produced from the Victorian University. It comes a year after the first one and it looks at the economic prospects of Project Marinus and Battery of the Nation, with new scientific published reports about the battery technology that is coming on line and importantly about the research that has been undertaken by governments overseas, especially the United States which has made a huge commitment to the electrification of the United States and to the independence of the United States on its own renewable energy supply.

Dr Mountain has looked at the best practice and the forecasts for the United States and other jurisdictions as well as the published research and the evidence in Victoria and other parts of Australia of the battery technology that is coming online and his conclusions are clear. To put it in a nutshell, as Laura Beavis from the ABC did in her report today, the Marinus Link project has been likened to Snowy 2.0 and the warning is that it will be a deadweight loss. A deadweight loss financially and become ultimately an unused white elephant asset for Tasmanians and a cross that will be borne for Tasmanians and Australians.

We do not yet know who will pay for this idea. It is clear that according to the evidence - and this has not been refuted in any meaningful way by TasNetworks - the proposed undersea power cable and the electricity storage projects would not be able to compete with the cheaper battery storage that is now available in Victoria.

It is worthwhile, because most people will not have time to download and have a read of this report, and it is technical, appropriately so. It is called An Analysis of the Economics and Greenhouse Impact of Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation 2021 Update by Dr Bruce Mountain from the Victorian Energy Policy Centre. His main conclusions remain that the 1500 megawatts of four-hour battery storage can be provided for less than half the cost of Marinus Link, that the same capacity for six-hour battery storage can be provided for 79 per cent of the cost of Marinus Link and that the 1500 megawatts of eight hour battery storage would still be cheaper than Marinus Link.

In conclusion, he finds that even if Hydro Tasmania is able to provide - for no additional cost - 1500 megawatts that could be exported to Victoria, day in, day out for eight hours into the foreseeable future, it would still be cheaper for Victoria to build 1500 megawatts of batteries than it would be to build and pay for Marinus Link.

It is also the case that our electrical system has nowhere near the power or energy capability that is needed to provide 1500 megawatts of supply to Victoria for eight hours every day and it is the case that many billions of dollars would need to expand our storage and energy production in Tasmania in order to be able to provide the capacity that Marinus Link purports to offer.

In the year since their last report, this is an update, a number of things have changed, and each of the things that have changed - they highlight in their report - has strengthened and reinforced the conclusions that they made in their report last year. The conclusions are that there is no economic advantage for producing a Marinus Link compared to the much more flexible and low-cost batteries that are available and increasingly coming online in Victoria.

They found that the CSIRO cost estimates of batteries, which is what they used in their research, is even more favourable now than it was in the estimates that Dr Mountain used last year. Year on year, month on month, the price of batteries is coming down. This is what the energy technology transition looks like. It is rapid and we welcome that. We should all welcome that because it gives us as many opportunities as we can to hasten our adaptation to a renewable future for the whole of Australia and it is also the case that since the report last year, there have been very large investments in batteries in Victoria and the list of prospective battery projects has grown even bigger. The developments in Victoria since the last report provide a lot of confidence that battery storage capacity will be built and operational in Victoria long before Marinus Link and the Battery of the Nation developments in Tasmania could be close to operational because they will take such a long time to operationalise. There is nothing concrete and there is no funding or plan for the construction of either of these yet, although I am sure there is work in the pipeline.

So, in the last 12 months there has been the Victoria Big Battery announced that will be commissioned soon and another massive 1400 megawatt hour battery will be commissioned at Jeeralang by 2026 and there are also now four more grid-scale batteries with an aggregate capacity of 3500 megawatt hours that seem likely to proceed.

It is very important that three of those five batteries I just mentioned, that is 80 per cent of the total capacity that is increasing in Victoria, will be or are already co-located with generation. In other words, where the electricity is being generated is the site at which the batteries are located. That is a critical point because that is highly efficient and one of the concerns about Marinus Link is the transition losses. It is such a long way from wind power in Tasmania to mainland Victoria - across that whole state, let alone to other parts of the Australian grid and so it is increasingly clear from what is happening around the world that locating batteries next to the energy generation source is the most efficient way of storing energy, rather than the deep storage which Battery of the Nation would attempt to provide.

He also points to an updated analysis with major studies published overseas, particularly in the United States by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the US Department of Energy. The Department of Energy's forecast for their expected full decarbonised electricity system in the United States is that they will use an expansion of 2-, 4-, 6-, 8- and 10 hour battery capacities. Their scenario is for a complete decarbonisation of electricity supply and also the deep electrification of the United States economy.

What the United States is planning for, what the Department of Energy is talking about, is an increasing reliance on the use of batteries for those different storage periods - 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 hours - however, their projections for their pumped hydro capacity across that period from now to 2050 remain almost unchanged from today's levels. They are not putting their faith in that pumped hydro in the United States.

The Greens make no statement about the benefits or otherwise of different forms of technology. We are making a statement about the need for urgency and the need to make sure that every dollar counts to bring down emissions rapidly and also to work within the global focus of both protecting biodiversity and reducing the climate heating.

Within that frame, it is pretty clear that in a technology-led transition which is where we have to be, that there is far more benefit in having rapid, predictable and responsive battery storage compared to the many questions about the much slower, far-less-flexible infrastructure that the building of Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation together would provide.

The Greens will keep asking questions about this. We do not believe that government, either at federal or state level, is providing our residents with the information that we as a state need to make so that we do not end up with a white elephant for which Tasmanians will be paying for decades to come, that is not providing the flexibility and the responsiveness that the renewable energy market will demand of us increasingly as time goes on.

We have competition on the mainland. We have to make sure that, first of all, the focus of the government is on securing the renewable energy transition completely away from fossil fuels. That means ending our reliance on the Tamar Valley Power Station, ending our use of gas in all forms and bringing on green hydrogen and the electrification of the whole transportation fleet in Tasmania, supporting the electrification of all industries, especially agriculture, industrial processes and waste.

I suggest that the minister might like to have a look at the updated report by Dr Bruce Mountain. We have two large government business enterprises, Hydro and TasNetworks. It is fantastic that they are publicly owned. It is a statement of fact that they, like TasGas, will be working in their self-interest. They are meant to be functioning as businesses at arm's length from government.

We have to be asking what is the best thing for Tasmanians, not what is the best thing for Hydro and TasNetworks. We have to be looking at the employment of people in industries that are sustainable. We cannot create white elephants that sound good in the short term for providing jobs if they are unsustainable in the long term. If they cannot compete in a market because we have backed a slow piece of infrastructure that is not required on the mainland and does not put the interests of the Tasmanian people and the Tasmanian environment and our commitment to climate change emissions reduction first, then we should not be supporting it.

We are disappointed at this motion from the Labor Party. It is disappointing to see that the Labor Party has put the interests of a fossil fuel corporation, TasGas, ahead of the best interests of looking at the whole picture for Tasmanians. The Labor Party is doing this more and more. They are speaking of the interests of corporations. All members received the self-promotion letters from TasGas but it seems that only Mr Winter has acted on behalf of that company. What a surprise. Maybe it is because Mr Winter has not been in this position for very long. This was talked through in Estimates. It is pretty obvious that they are in the middle of contract negotiations and of course they are going to be crying the end of the world as we know it. Of course, they are going to be saying if they do not get everything they want, it is going to be a disaster for Tasmania.

It is the job of parliamentarians to look through the best interests of corporations and to not be looking at corporations but looking at the community. We will not be supporting this motion today. We would support something else which looked at the importance of bringing down emissions from a climate change point of view.