In the past year, the state received only 70% of its average annual rainfall. Tasmania’s hydro storages currently stand at 18%, the lowest they have been since April 1968 when they fell to 14.2%. Great Lake is currently at 12%.

Hydro Tasmania CEO Vince Hawksworth said Basslink – the 360km undersea electricity link between Victoria and Tasmania – had been an invaluable asset since it began full operation a year ago.

‘Basslink has been critical in keeping the lights on in Tasmania at a time of severe drought and following 10 straight years of below average rainfall,’ Hawksworth said.

‘2006 saw the lowest inflows into Tasmania’s hydro storages since the 1967 record low. That shortfall can be translated into water worth $100M to Hydro Tasmania.

‘Having Basslink in place has enabled us to import power equivalent to 70% of the total annual power demand for Tasmanian homes to ensure supplies are maintained,’ he continued, adding that low inflows into its storages and increased market prices as a result of drought conditions nationally had resulted in Hydro Tasmania paying an additional $75M on imported power and extra gas to keep the power on in Tasmania and protect hydro storages wherever possible.

Although the company had absorbed the additional costs they are expected to have an impact on its financial result for the year.

The Basslink performance details over its first year are:

* Amount Imported: 1920GWh

* Amount exported: 450GWh

* Net Import: 1470GWh or equivalent to 70% of the State’s annual domestic demand

* Total Usage Time of Basslink: 80.9% importing and 19.1% exporting

* Availability: 99.3%

Without Basslink in place during this prolonged drought, Hydro Tasmania says the following would have resulted:

* Tasmania’s hydro storages would be 6% lower that they are currently.

* Tasmania would be facing the prospect of power rationing and potential blackouts this winter which would cause significant damage to the State’s economy.

* The Great Lake would be virtually emptied of useful energy with little or no possibility of being adequately refilled for many years to come.

* Hydro Tasmania would be paying for much greater quantities of gas to compensate for ongoing low lake levels at a generally higher cost than Basslink imports.

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