Battery of the Nation just the start of our new energy future

Opinion piece

15 March 2019

On 25 January, as the lights went out in 200,000 Victorian homes and the Portland aluminium smelter was taken offline, it was little comfort that there was an additional 400 megawatts of generation capacity in Tasmania unable to reach the mainland and keep the lights on.

Unfortunately it is not the first time Labor/Green state governments have failed to guarantee reliable supply for households and businesses, and it is unlikely to be the last. While these governments continue their ideological pursuit of reckless energy and emissions targets, the Morrison Government has been implementing a practical solution.

The $86 million partnership between the Morrison and Hodgman Governments, announced for Marinus Link and Battery of the Nation, is all about delivering practical solutions.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Battery of the Nation is a vision that will harness Tasmania's natural advantages to tackle the problems in our electricity market.

Battery of the Nation will provide up to 2,500 megawatts of fast-start, dispatchable generation capacity. This is real power. It will also provide large-scale storage to firm up renewable generation, driving investment to take advantage of Tasmania's vast and largely untapped wind potential.

Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link go hand in hand. Marinus Link will add an additional 1,200 megawatts of capacity across Bass Strait, as well as the existing 400 megawatts of constrained generation to the mainland.

Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link would also complement other large-scale energy storage projects like Snowy 2.0. Storage technology we see in Snowy 2.0 and Battery of the Nation will play an integral role in providing back-up power for intermittent renewables.

Tasmania offers great potential to deliver additional energy storage and dispatchable generation to the National Electricity Market. Battery of the Nation will more than double Tasmania's existing hydro generation and provide vast energy storage capacity through pumped hydro. This will help unlock the large, untapped wind energy resources across Tasmania. Marinus Link will be key to making this reliable, dispatchable energy available to the mainland to keep the lights on and industry running.

It is welcome news the Hodgman Government is full steam ahead, announcing earlier this week the three potential sites Hydro Tasmania will investigate: Lake Cethana and Lake Rowallan, south-west of Sheffield, and the Tribute Power Station, south of Tullah.

We face a real opportunity and challenge in our electricity markets with unprecedented investment in renewable energy generation across Australia. Latest figures from the Clean Energy Regulator show over $25 billion of committed investment in new wind and solar over the years 2018-20.

The Australian Energy Market Operator estimates that around 16 gigawatts of existing thermal generation is scheduled to retire by 2040, equivalent to about one third of the energy currently used in the market. This will be replaced with 54 gigawatts of new, mostly intermittent, generation entering the National Electricity Market. That means we've got to have backup storage and better interconnection to deal with the variable nature of wind and solar.

Projects like Marinus Link, Battery of the Nation and Snowy 2.0 reinforce the investment that has already been made in renewable power across Australia and provides reliability that doesn't come at the cost of driving prices up and compromising energy security.

The Morrison Government recognises we have an obligation to future generations. We are serious about tackling climate change, reducing emissions but doing this while ensuring a strong economy and keeping energy prices down.

As part of our $3.5 billion Climate Solutions Package, Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link delivers on our sustainable plan to meet our emissions reductions targets through its low cost, zero emission hydroelectricity capacity. Battery of the Nation is expected to reduce emissions by 25 million tonnes by 2030.

Together, Battery of the Nation and Marinus Link are expected to create up to 3,800 direct and indirect jobs during construction and deliver an economic stimulus of up to $7 billion in North-Western Tasmania and regional Victoria. It's a huge economic dividend and it's something on which our governments have been working together, and will continue to work on into the future.

Keeping the lights on and keeping prices down is not an option - it's a necessity in increasingly difficult circumstances. The Morrison Government has taken the ideology out of the debate to prioritise security and affordability. Unfortunately, you simply can't trust Bill Shorten and his Labor mates to do the same - even through the future of our country's economy depends on it.

Minister for Energy