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.