Opinion Pieces


April 10, 2019

TASMANIA is synonymous with its proud pumped hydro history.

As Australia and the world face an unprecedented energy transition, the country will look to Tasmania as a renewable energy powerhouse.

Along with pumped hydro the state has an unparalleled wind energy resource, and because of these reasons Tasmania can find itself in the driver's seat to take advantage of the inevitable transition of Australia's energy system.

That's why a Shorten Labor Government has decided to invest even further in the renewable energy potential for Northern Tasmania by pledging $250,000 towards the development of a major new job creating export industry - hydrogen.

A hydrogen export industry has the potential for hundreds, if not thousands, of new well-paid blue-collar jobs in Northern Tasmania, reimagining Tasmania's proud industrial heritage.

It has the potential to generate significant annual export revenue for Tasmania, with some estimates calculating the potential annual revenue at $150 million - which would make it Tasmania's sixth-largest export revenue earner.

Hydrogen gas is an energy source that can be produced through the process of electrolysis using renewable energy, meaning it can leverage Tasmania's abundant supply of clean, green renewable energy to make much cleaner hydrogen competitively.

The potential for a Tasmanian hydrogen industry is massive and goes well beyond export; from transforming transport, to providing secure, affordable and clean energy for industry. When I was in Launceston a few weeks ago I met with the Northern Tasmania Development Corporation who are big supporters of the hydrogen export potential for this part of the state.

The opportunity for jobs and export growth are also backed strongly by the local business community, local government, the Tasmanian Minerals and Energy Council, the Launceston Chamber of Commerce and the Business Sustainability Round Table.

But this opportunity for the region doesn't happen by backing new coal.

Only a national plan, backed by the right policies in Canberra, will see Tasmania reach its huge energy potential.

As the country moves to a much greater reliance on renewable energy, we'll see a need for energy storage on an unprecedented scale to ensure that renewable energy can be delivered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

That's why Labor's energy plan backs the ambitious plan for Tasmania to become the Battery of the Nation. As Northern Tasmanians well know, central to the Battery of the Nation vision is the Marinus Link interconnector with the mainland.

The Marinus Link feasibility study confirmed under a High Emission Reduction Scenario, which is broadly consistent with Labor's 50 per cent 2030 renewable energy commitment, the project delivers a net positive benefit of $490 million for a 600 MW link, and a $760 million net benefit for a 1200 link. As well as our 50 per cent renewable commitment, and our $56 million commitment to the next stage of the Marinus project, Labor has a plan for Australia's energy transition.

This plan includes a $5 billion Energy Security and Modernisation Fund to support new transmission investments like the Marinus Link, and support for commercial and residential renewables and storage, including pumped hydro, through a $10 billion capital injection into the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

In contrast, the Liberals have spent over five years in government attacking the transition to renewables as "unreliable", "madness", and "ideological".

They refuse to support any pro-renewable policy post 2020 and they plan to underwrite new coal power stations that directly undermine the business case for the Battery of the Nation project.

Just in the past week Scott Morrison and the Liberals have committed to spending billions of taxpayers' dollars on new coalfired power stations that are completely inconsistent with the future of Tasmania and Australia's energy future.

The fact is renewable energy is the cheapest form of new energy, but the Coalition attacks is one reason why power prices will keep going up and up under Scott Morrison.

As a result power bills have skyrocketed and thousands of jobs in renewables are at risk.

That's why Tasmanians simply can't trust the state's energy future to Scott Morrison and his anti-renewable Liberals.

Tasmania has a central role to play in a modern, clean electricity system, and only a Shorten Labor government will work with all Tasmanians to make that role a reality.


This piece was first published in the Launceston Examiner on Wednesday, 10 April 2019.