People and Places Chapter
Energy Sources and Use

Woolnorth Studland Bay wind farminternal SOE link to larger image

Source: Photograph courtesy of Roaring Forties, Tasmania

Links to content in detail

This 'At a glance' section provides an overview of the issue of energy sources and use. The detailed background report and supporting indicators are available through the following links:

At a glance – the issue

Energy is fundamental to the conduct of economic activity and the maintenance of living standards. It is an integral component of an actively functioning modern society. The production and use of energy is also central to many of the key contemporary environmental policy debates relating to energy futures, climate change and sustainability. The availability of affordable energy is also an important equity issue with respect to ensuring a minimum standard of living for Tasmanians. In addition, consumers are increasingly concerned about conserving the energy embodied in products, goods and services such as food, transport and housing. This concern has created renewed impetus for a variety of social and consumer trends ranging from carbon off-setting to creating urban vegetable gardens and installing residential passive solar design and solar power. The growth in attendance at the Tasmania's Sustainable Living Expo, run by Sustainable Living Tasmania, illustrates this increasing popular interest (5,500 people attended the event in 2009, an increase of 2,500 on the 2008 event).

Quality of life relies on the supply of energy, to enable society to continue to function. It is also increasingly recognised that maintaining the same standards of living in a growing economy requires investment in new efficient and renewable energy sources. It also requires the efficient management of current energy demand. These are complex issues that are beyond the scope of this SoE Report. This issue report confines the discussion to providing some indicators of trends and changes in energy sources and use, and the emission of greenhouse gases. There is a clear need for the development of a more complete suite of indicators for energy supply and demand across different sectors at the Tasmanian and national levels. The need for more comprehensive indicators has been recognised recently by the International Energy Agency in its report titled: Applying Indicators to Enhance Energy Policy (Internal linkIEA 2009).

State of Energy Sources and Use in Tasmania

Energy underpins nearly every aspect of the Tasmanian modern economy. The steady increases in economic activity that have occurred in the State have tended to put an upward pressure on energy consumption. Since the 2003 SoE Report there has been an increase (approximately 13.8%) in energy use in the State. Accompanying the increasing use of energy is increasing greenhouse gas emissions across most economic sectors (Internal linkDepartment of Climate Change 2009). Carbon dioxide emission trends for Tasmania from the generation of purchased electricity show the consequences of increasing reliance on coal and gas-powered electricity. Prolonged periods of below average rainfall have increased Tasmania's reliance on non-renewable energy sources, specifically the importation of electricity from the national grid via Basslink.

The following graphical index is included as a visual method to allow a comparison of priority issues. Further information on the index is provided at Background to Index. Over the reporting period from 2003–08, and despite this recent rainfall and a recent recovery in streamflow, pressures and demands on Tasmania's energy resources have generally increased. Significant declines in streamflows and natural inflows to water storages occurred. Some streamflow sites recorded their lowest flows since records started. Diminishing capacity to generate renewable hydro-electricity was experienced due to reduced inflows to hydro storages. However, any conclusion about trends in water quantity and availability is dependent on the timescale assessed. Over the longer-term since the 1950s, there is some evidence of a declining trend in streamflows in parts of the State. Recent heavy rains and floods in 2009 highlight the high level of variability and uncertainty.

A significant change is the increasing energy use in Tasmania. While this reflects a positive change of a growing economy and employment base, the challenge (locally, nationally and internationally) in creating sustainable energy futures is to provide economic opportunities without increasing energy use.

Energy sources and use index

Energy sources and use indexinternal SOE link to larger image

Condition, trends and changes

Energy Sources

  • The majority of Tasmania's energy is sourced from electricity (hydro, Basslink, natural gas turbines, wind and solar), wood and wood waste, petroleum products black coal, and natural gas.
  • Although over one third of Tasmania's energy needs are met with renewable energy sources, the State continues to rely on non-renewable energy sources for the other two thirds of energy needs, of which one third is sourced from petroleum products that are primarily used for transport. The problem of switching transport to renewable energy is not restricted to Tasmania, and will remain an issue for other Australian states and territories and internationally into the immediate future. The remaining one third of energy is supplied by various non-renewable energy sources such as black coal and natural gas. The State's greenhouse gas emissions are the lowest in Australia, primarily due to the large proportion of renewable energy used.
  • Basslink is a high voltage undersea cable link between Tasmania and Victoria that connects the State to the National Electricity Market (NEM). It began operation in May 2006. Basslink has the capacity to export up to 600 MW of power from Tasmania to Victoria and import up to 300 MW to the State. It has a continuous rating of 480 MW (Internal linkNational Grid Australia Pty Ltd 2006; Internal linkDIER 2004). Basslink has supplied a significant proportion of Tasmania's electricity needs since it became operational.
  • The condition of one key system variable—hydro storage levels—declined over the reporting period but recovered during the wet winter in 2009. Below average rainfalls from 2002–09, and drought conditions from 2006–09 across the State, have contributed to declining hydro-electricity outputs over the seven-year period. The period between October 2007 and May 2008 was the driest in 75 years (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2008). Storages dropped to 16.5% in early June 2008, the lowest record in 40 years (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2008). As a consequence of declining hydro storages, Tasmania has increased its reliance on Basslink, the Bell Bay gas-fired power station and wind generation (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2008).
  • During 2007–08, 7,158 GWh of 10,500 GWh in total of power used by Tasmania was sourced from hydro-electricity. The remaining power was sourced from the Bell Bay gas fired power station (1,169GWh) and net imports over Basslink (2,264 GWh) (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2008). During 2008–09, the total power output supplied by hydro-electricity generation dropped to 6,500 GWh of an approximate total of 10,600 GWh (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2008). Just over half of the Tasmania's electricity is consumed by four large customers (Internal linkOffice of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator 2008).
  • While the significant rains during 2009 are outside the SoE reporting period, they are important to include in this discussion as a postscript. Hydro-electricity dam storage levels at the end of June 2009 were at 28% of full capacity and increased to around 40% at the end of August 2009 (Internal linkHydro Tasmania 2009).
  • The mix of available energy sources for Tasmania has diversified over the SoE reporting period through initiatives including the following:
    • The uptake of natural gas has increased in the State from 3,064 customers connected at 30 June 2007 to 5,047 by 30 June 2008. Natural gas provided 12.8% of Tasmania's total energy consumption in 2006–07 (Internal linkOffice of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator 2008). Natural gas, although a non-renewable resource, is a low emission alternative, which will assist further Tasmania's standing as a low greenhouse gas emission State. Natural gas provides options in combining energy sources at the residential level such as through solar hot water with gas boosting.
    • The Tamar Valley power station was opened by the Tasmanian Government in October 2009. The Tamar Valley power station is owned by a subsidiary of Aurora Energy and is capable of producing 390 MW of electricity (Internal linkAurora Energy 2009).
    • Woolnorth is a fully operative 140MW wind farm located in the northwest of the State that utilises 62 wind turbines. Musselroe wind farm is currently being constructed and it will produce 138 MW of power from 60 wind turbines on completion (Internal linkRoaring Forties 2009).
    • There are several initiatives in place to promote the installation of sustainable energy sources and increase energy efficiencies. The National Framework for Energy Efficiency has been developed through a joint State-Australian Government initiative. It aims to achieve a major enhancement of Australia's energy efficiency performance, reducing energy demand and lowering greenhouse emissions (Internal linkDepartment of Resources Energy and Tourism 2009). Over 600 photovoltaic solar systems were installed in Tasmania during 2008–09, of which 376 are connected to the State's main electricity grid (225 are off-grid). There are significantly more off-grid (37%) solar systems than any other state and this figure is above the national average (11%).

Energy Use

  • Energy use in Tasmania has increased by approximately 14% over the last five years. During this time, there has been an increase in population and the Gross State Product, and these factors have contributed to increasing demands on energy sources. Since 2001–02, the increase has been more pronounced and prolonged than any other time period since 1960. The three main sectors with the greatest increase in energy use in relation to their past use since this time are residential (increase of 25%), manufacturing (increase of 26%) and electricity generation (increase of 226%). Although the consumption by the electricity generation sector rose significantly over this period, the increase may relate to changes to the commencement of Basslink in 2006 and the National Electricity Market.
  • The Australian Government continues to offer rebates and funding for ceiling insulation, green loans, rainwater, greywater and solar and heat-pump hot water systems. These initiatives will improve efforts to reduce Tasmania's energy consumption over time.
  • The majority of energy used in Tasmanian dwellings is electricity. Since 2002, there has been a significant decrease in the use of wood and small increase in solar and gas energy use. Natural gas continues to be rolled out across the State and there has been a significant increase in connections to this energy source (Internal linkOffice of the Tasmanian Economic Regulator 2008). Wood use has dropped in response to buy-back schemes in place for wood heaters and a general increase in the uptake of heat-pump technology through the cheaper Hydro Heat electricity tariffs. The number of dwellings using wood for space heating has dropped from over 56% in 1999 to nearly 26% in 2008 (Internal linkABS 2008). Use of electricity for space heating has increased from approximately 33% in 1999 to 65% in 2008.
  • The percentage of Tasmanian dwellings with insulation has increased from just over 60% in 1994 to approximately 75% in 2008 (Internal linkABS 2008). This figure does not include installations resulting from the rebates offered by the Australian Government under the External linkSolar Homes and Communities Plan program. This rebate is expected to be maintained in the near future and will assist in cutting energy loss from heating.
  • The Tasmanian Government announced that as from 1 January 2010, new Tasmanian residential dwellings and extensions will need to be more energy efficient under new 5-Star buildings standards (Internal linkSingh 2009). With over 25% of Tasmanian homes still uninsulated (Internal linkABS 2008), there is scope to improved the energy efficiency of these homes as well as for new homes.
  • Most economic sectors in Tasmania show increasing greenhouse gas emissions in recent years (Internal linkDepartment of Climate Change 2009). The construction sector, for example, shows a steady decline until 2003 followed by a rapid growth in emissions to 2007. The mining sector shows a similar pattern reflecting improved economic conditions, although there is greater annual variation in emissions.

  External linkTasmanian Planning Commissioninternal SOE link to larger image

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Or mail to: Tasmanian Planning Commission, GPO Box 1691, Hobart, TAS, 7001, Australia


Last Modified: 1 Mar 2010
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