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Winter rain helps lift Tasmania power rationing


Source: SMH, 22 May 2016

The onset of winter rain in Tasmania has boosted dam storage levels sufficiently to enable the resumption of full production at constrained aluminium and minerals processing plans.

Rio Tinto's Bell Bay aluminium smelter is to resume full production by the end of June – a month earlier than expected – and TEMCO, the magnesium alloy plant owned by BHP Billiton spin-out South 32, within a month.

Both companies had curtailed production due to power shortages following a dry 2015. As well, the Boyer paper mill, which is owned by Norske Skog, brought forward planned maintenance which helped reduce electricity consumption for a time.

Concerns over blackouts were exacerbated by the loss of the undersea power connection between Tasmania and the mainland, Basslink.

Following extensive delays, this link is now expected to be back in operation by mid-June, with the repair vessel, the Il De Re, leaving port in Geelong last week to undertake what is hoped to be the final repairs.

At the start of last week, the Tasmanian government said water storage in the state's dams had risen to 20 per cent, up from the low of 12.8 per cent in late April.