Up until recently, 30 percent of Tasmania's power was coal generated — imported via the Basslink power and communications cable from the mainland — while 60 per cent came from the island's hydro-electric dams and stations, and a final 10 per cent was from wind farms.
But the Basslink cable broke in December, and dam levels are threatening record lows, leaving the future of Tasmania's power in uncertainty.
Accounting for 60 per cent of Tasmania's power usage, industrial energy users on the island have been asked to ration their usage, resulting in fears of job cuts from employees. Contractors have already reported being asked not to come into work.
With the Basslink repairs starting over the weekend, but expected to take months to complete, dam levels are continuing to plummet from 15.5 per cent capacity towards a record 14 per cent low. 200 diesel generators have been shipped to Tasmania from the mainland, with more to come. An old, expensive gas-fired power station has been brought back into operation, and chemical cloud seeding to encourage rainfall will soon begin.
Labor and the Greens have called for a formal Senate inquiry in order to gain more information and recommendations on the best way to deal with Tasmania's energy crisis. One of the big questions is whether dam levels have been driven down by Tasmania's selling clean power to the mainland, with hydroelectric energy being exported right up until the Basslink cable breakage.
Households have been guaranteed they will not be asked to ration water usage.