The cable has been out of service since the end of March and will not back on line till the end of May. (Supplied: Basslink)
The Tasmanian Government has described the delay in the return of the Basslink cable as “disappointing and unacceptable”.
The undersea power cable between Tasmania and Victoria will be out of action for six weeks longer than expected.
The Basslink cable has been out of service since the end of last month, when a contractor in Victoria damaged a piece of equipment during routine maintenance.
It was due to come back online on Saturday but on Tuesday afternoon Basslink released a statement advising it would not be back in service until May 31.
But Energy Minister Guy Barnett said that unlike the last six-month outage which started in December 2015, this time the dam levels are good.
At a media conference after the announcement, Mr Barnett repeatedly said that energy security “has not and will not be compromised”.
It was a line he repeated at least 11 times during the 11-minute press conference.
“I am very disappointed with the advice from Basslink,” Mr Barnett said.
“It is disappointing and unacceptable. As a Government, however, energy security is a top priority and it has not, and will not, be compromised under our Government.”
Hydro Tasmania says dam levels are good and it should be able to manage comfortably. (Hydro Tasmania)
Hydro Tasmania’s chief executive officer Steve Davy said the delay was not ideal but did not “meaningfully affect Tasmania’s energy security”.
“Autumn has produced good above-average inflows so far. We expect to manage comfortably without the ability to import,” he said in a statement.
“Hydro Tasmania storages were at 37 per cent on Monday. That’s an extremely secure level as we approach the wettest months of the year.
“It’s also well above the High Reliability Level set by the Energy Security Taskforce.”
Tamar station on standby
The main gas turbine at the Tamar Valley Power Station is available for service at short notice in the event it is required but the Minister does not expect that it will be needed.
“We’re well placed to deal with concerns such as we have today,” he said.
“Basslink plays an important role in Tasmania’s energy security and I urge Basslink to take all prudent measures to accelerate the return to service.”
The Minister would not say how much he expected the state’s inability to sell its power to the mainland would cost in terms of lost revenue, or whether the Government would be adding it to the compensation it was already chasing as a result of 2015-16 outage.
“We will monitor this very closely and advance the interests of Tasmania,” Mr Barnett said.
Repair team working ‘around the clock’
Basslink said the cable itself had not been damaged; the fault was with a high-pressure system within a piece of equipment at the Victorian converter station.
“To return the interconnector to service, we require specialised expertise and equipment to be brought in to re-pressurise this equipment. It is a highly technical exercise,” the statement said.
“For the past week, Basslink has worked around the clock in liaison with its manufacturing partners to develop a repair and re-pressurisation procedure, source the necessary people and equipment, and finalise all associated logistics.
“While discussion around a number of these aspects continues, based on the latest available information, the anticipated return to service date has been revised to 31 May.
The Government is seeking compensation after the first outage which was caused by a tear in the cable. (Supplied)
“Despite Basslink’s frustration with this date, the Basslink team is looking at every possible opportunity to expedite the return to service date.”
The company said its telecoms cable providing broadband services to internet service providers was operating and the issue was “unrelated to the outage in December 2015 and the ongoing dispute with the state of Tasmania”.
The earlier power crisis was triggered by the failure in December 2015 of the Basslink cable due to a tear in the interconnector, which then combined with low dam levels.
Keeping the lights on in Tasmania is estimated to have cost the Government about $180 million, which included shipping in 100 back-up diesel generators.
Last December, the ABC reported an investigation into the cable’s performance found it “may have been initially damaged when running above continuous rating, through overheating, because its design and operation were inadequate”.