The Guardian March 13, 2002


Basslink: $100 million cost blowout

The cost of mitigating corrosion of metal structures near the monopole 
Basslink cable will blow out to $100 million due to the need for a second 
or metallic return cable, Greens Senator Bob Brown said.

"That's equivalent to a $500 tax on every Tasmanian household and Deputy 
Premier Paul Lennon has already said that the door is open to a taxpayer 
funded bailout of the cable's mounting cost.

"The Bacon Government's bungling of Basslink will cost Tasmania dearly. The 
Government jumped at NGI's cheapest tender without understanding the 
shortcomings of the monopole option", said Mr Brown.

There have been emergency talks in London involving the Hydro and NGI to 
meet the expected finding of the Joint Advisory Panel (due on March12) that 
Basslink not proceed unless its huge corrosive problem is resolved. Senator 
Brown raised the problem at the panel hearings last year but had apparently 
not been understood by the government.

The cheapest solution to the corrosion involves a second or metallic return 
cable which returns an equal and opposite flow of electrons across Bass 
Strait to the main current-bearing cable. National Grid International (NGI) 
told the panel this would cost $70-100 million. The lower figure is gained 
if Basslink's two electrodes, at either end of the cable, are not built.

The Greens oppose the cable on economic and environmental grounds.

The metallic return option does not fix Basslink's other major problems 
including :

* protecting Tasmanian consumers from power price rises flowing from the 
estimated $70 million per annum rental which the Hydro will pay NGI for use 
of the cable in the next 25 years;
* undergrounding powerlines in Gippsland and Victoria  estimated to cost 
$80 million;
* protecting the Gordon River upstream of the Strahan cruise reaches, from 
erosion and ecological damage due to altered flow pattern; and
* making Tasmania vulnerable to mainland power shortages and Hydro more 
liable to privatisation.

"All the tenders should be reviewed. The metallic return option is very 
different to the monopole cable and requires new public economic and 
environmental inquiries by both state and federal authorities", said 
Senator Brown.

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