Australia is a country with an area in excess of 10,000,000km2 and a population estimated at 19.5M people in mid 2001. The population is increasing at an annual rate of about 1.3%. Most of this is by natural increase, with net migration adding about 100,000 people a year.
The country is administered through a system of eight state governments and a federal government. The distribution of the population is on a state by state basis. Over 80% of this population lives along the eastern seaboard in the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, with more than 60% living in the southeast of the country.
Overall energy production in Australia amounts to just over 200,000GWh per annum. The current installed hydro power production capacity is over 7600MW, producing approximately 17,700GWh per annum of electrical energy, or approximately 9% of the total energy production in Australia. Hydro is almost the sole form of energy produced in Tasmania, but this is the exception in Australia. Even in New South Wales – the state with the next highest installed capacity of hydro power plants – hydro energy production amounts to only 12% of the total energy mix in that state.
Status of dam construction
New dam construction is proceeding slowly throughout the country, with two or three new or major upgrading projects under way at any one time. Projects currently under construction include:
•Improvements to the water supply to Coffs Harbour in New South Wales.
•A major upgrade of Awoonga dam for industrial water supply and irrigation, at Gladstone in Queensland.
•Construction of Harvey dam in Western Australia – part of a $A275m (US$165m) project to improve the supply of potable water to Perth.
However, new dam projects have not been constructed in the state of Victoria for almost 15 years and for more than seven years in Tasmania. In South Australia, new water storage dams have not been constructed for about 25 years, although a number of flood detention basins have.
In New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia, new dam projects have been under regular construction during this period, primarily for domestic and industrial water supply and to a lesser extent for irrigation purposes.
Upgrading existing projects
The upgrade of existing dams has been an ongoing feature of the industry in this country, including both capacity upgrading and safety upgrading. Two of the biggest projects are the construction of additional spillway capacity for Warragamba dam near Sydney, New South Wales, and the strengthening by post-tensioning of the 72m high concrete gravity Canning dam in Western Australia.
Trends for new construction
In recent years, following the completion of work on the major government-owned and sponsored projects, the trend has been for private investment in hydro power development. This has primarily been in the fields of small and mini/micro hydro.
Construction by retrofitting at existing dams has been a feature of the hydro power industry in Australia over the last decade. This work is still proceeding, with current changes to the regulatory system providing new opportunities for micro and mini hydro systems.
Deregulation and partial privatisation of the electrical supply industry has renewed interest in the prospects for hydro power. Much electricity in Australia is now traded so that distribution companies buy at the best price traded hour by hour. While large coal fired thermal power stations provide much of the base load, gas and hydro power typically fill the intermediate and peak load demands.
While there is some interest in new hydro power plants to meet this potential demand, there are a number of hurdles to be overcome, particularly in the areas of environmental approval and native title issues.
The deregulation of the electrical energy supply industry has provided some positive opportunities for green energy generally. Wind power is making a noticeable impact in many areas and a range of other energy sources are being actively pursued to take advantage of the green energy credits and positive discrimination for green energy.
TablesAustralian hydro power