Hydro Tasmania

Hydro Tasmania, known for most of its history as the Hydro-Electric Commission (HEC) or The Hydro, is the trading name of the Hydro-Electric Corporation, a Tasmanian Government business enterprise which is the predominant electricity generator in the state of Tasmania, Australia. The Hydro was originally oriented towards hydro-electricity, due to Tasmania's dramatic topography and relatively high rainfall in the central and western parts of the state. Today Hydro Tasmania operates thirty hydro-electric and one gas power station, and is a joint owner in three wind farms.[2]

Hydro-Electric Corporation
Hydro Tasmania
Hydro-Electric Commission
Government enterprise
Founded1929; 91 years ago (1929)
HeadquartersHobart, Tasmania,
Area served
Key people
G. Every-Burns (Chairman)
S. Davey (CEO)
Products9,000 GWh of electricity
BrandsHydro Tasmania, Entura, Momentum Energy
ServicesElectricity generation
A$1,500 million (2015)
A$62 million (2015)
Total assetsA$5,195 million (2015)
OwnerGovernment of Tasmania
Number of employees
1105 (2017)
SubsidiariesMomentum Energy, Entura
Footnotes / references

The Minister for Energy, currently the Hon. Guy Barnett MP, has portfolio responsibility for Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania operates under the Government Business Enterprises (GBE) Act 1995 and the Hydro-Electric Corporation Act 1995, and has a reporting requirement to the Treasurer of Tasmania, currently the Hon. Peter Gutwein MP. Hydro Tasmania was projected to pay the Tasmania Government a dividend of A$42 million in 2016.[1]



In 1914, the State Government set up the Hydro-Electric Department (changed to the Hydro-Electric Commission in 1929) to complete the first HEC power station, the Waddamana Hydro-Electric Power Station. Prior to that two private hydro-electric stations had been opened the Launceston City Council's Duck Reach Power Station, opened 1895 on the South Esk River (it was one of the first hydro-electric power stations in the southern hemisphere. Reefton in New Zealand is the first municipal hydro-station, beginning operations in 1888) and the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company's Lake Margaret Power Station, opened in 1914. These power stations were taken over by the HEC and Duck Reach was closed in 1955. Lake Margaret was closed in 2006, but after a multimillion-dollar refit was recommissioned in 2009.

Following the Second World War in the 1940s and early 1950s, many migrants came to Tasmania to work for the HEC with construction of dams and sub-stations. This was similar to the Snowy Mountains Scheme in New South Wales and similar effects in bringing in a significant number of people into the local community enriching the social fabric and culture of each state. Most constructions in this era were concentrated in the centre of the island.

As the choice of rivers and catchments in the central highlands were exhausted, the planners and engineers began serious surveying of the rivers of the west and south west regions of the state. The long term vision of those within the HEC and the politicians in support of the process, was for continued utilisation of all of the state's water resources.

As a consequence of such a vision, the politicians and HEC bureaucrats were able to create the upper Gordon river power development schemes despite worldwide dismay at the loss of the original Lake Pedder.[3] The hydro-industrialisation of Tasmania was seen as paramount above all, and the complaints from outsiders were treated with disdain.

Interrupted dam makingEdit

Following the flooding of Lake Pedder by the HEC for the upper Gordon Power Development and the subsequent backlash against the HEC incursions into the south west wilderness of Tasmania, environmental groups of the 1970s and 80s alerted the rest of Australia to the continued power that the HEC had over the Tasmanian environment and politics.

Numbers of Tasmanian politicians either rose or fell on their alignment with the support of the HEC and its power development schemes in the south west and West Coast of Tasmania.[4]

When the HEC proposed a dam on the Gordon River, sited below the Franklin River, there was widespread and vigorous opposition. During the Franklin River 'No Dams' campaign it was common for members of families to be in conflict with one another by being aligned with the HEC proposals or the Conservationists.

The Tasmanian Labor Government attempted to resolve the dispute by offering a compromise dam, sited on the Gordon River above the Olga River, which would have avoided flooding the Franklin River. However, almost no-one wanted this compromise. Conservationists were concerned that the Franklin River area and surrounding wilderness would be damaged, and those in favour of a dam preferred an option that would utilise the Franklin's water as well as the Gordon's water.

The Tasmanian Government then offered a referendum on the issue, which only offered two choices: the Gordon below Franklin dam and the Gordon above Olga dam. There was widespread condemnation that the referendum did not offer a 3rd choice of not having any dam on the Gordon River, and various opinions were offered as to the best way of communicating this at the ballot box. As it turned out, of the 92% of eligible voters to attend the voting booths that day, 47% voted for the Gordon below Franklin option, with the remainder voting informally (45%) or for the Gordon above Olga option (8%).[5] The conservationists were ultimately successful in their campaign to stop any dam on the Gordon River, and the proposal and early works on the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam ended in 1983 when it was blockaded by the environmentalists and the recently elected Liberal State Government lost a High Court challenge to the Commonwealth's powers. The new Hawke Labor Government in Canberra had opposed the Franklin dam and had moved to stop its construction.

The compromise between the State and Federal government and conservationists led the HEC to see the end of an over fifty year long dam making enterprise in the construction of the Henty River and King River power developments.

The limits reachedEdit

The conservationists and the HEC in the 1980s acknowledged that there were a limited range of options for further power development schemes, and it was inevitable that the substantial workforce within the HEC specifically employed in the investigation and development of further dams would eventually become redundant.

Since the late 1990s HEC water storages have been progressively drawn down due to power demand exceeding long term supply, the overcoming of which was the original reason the Gordon-below-Franklin dam was proposed. The shortfall has been offset first by drawing down water storage and in latter years through increasing volumes of fossil fuel power generation, at first fuelled by oil and more recently by gas and, via the Basslink cable link to Victoria, coal.

From HEC to Hydro TasmaniaEdit

In the early 1990s, eastern state governments prepared for the National Electricity Market (NEM) and electricity deregulation. In anticipation of Tasmania joining NEM, the Hydro-Electric Commission was broken up on 1 July 1998, creating three separate state-owned companies:

Tasmania joined NEM in May 2005.

Starting from the 1990s, Hydro Tasmania has been investing in wind farms, the first one being the Huxley Hill Wind Farm on King Island, which was completed in 1998. This was followed by two wind farms at Woolnorth with a combined capacity of 140MW. Construction of a fourth power station, the Musselroe Wind Farm with a generating capacity of 168 MW was completed in 2013.[2]

It was argued in support of the privatization of Hydro Tasmania that it would result in an increase in revenue and an improvement in company efficiency. The Liberals supported privatisation in the 1990s but failed to convince the public of its merits. They have now reversed this policy. The Labor Party and the Tasmanian Greens have never openly supported privatisation; however many speculate that the Labor Party will support this move in the future. Some evidence of this first arose in late 2003 when a Labor government allowed Hydro Tasmania to sell its subsidiary software business, Hydstra, to a German competitor and again in 2005 when it allowed the sale of part of its financial interests in wind farm company, Roaring 40s to a Hong Kong-based company CLP Power Asia.[6] However, the present policy of all three major political parties is against privatisation, and community opinion mostly supports public ownership.

Hydro Tasmania in the 2000s saw the loss of the old dam building generation. The Anthony Power Development, was considered to be part of the last hydro-electric power development in Tasmania.[7] In 2008, the 1,000 GWH Project saw upgrades to parts of existing structures operated by the Hydro, and on-going progress towards being a carbon neutral operation.[8][9][10]

2016 crisisEdit

In early 2016, as Tasmania was reaching the lowest water levels ever encountered, there was a fault in Basslink which led to the shutdown of the link to the mainland for about 6 months creating the 2016 power crisis.[11] After Basslink came operational in 2006, the Bell Bay Power Station was decommissioned in 2009, resulting in a reduction of electricity generation capacity of 240 megawatts (320,000 hp), and leaving only Tamar Valley Power Station as a non-hydro power station. That plant had been mothballed and was to be sold when the crisis took place. The plant was recommissioned because of the crisis restoring a capacity of about 200 megawatts (270,000 hp) and diesel generators were brought in from the mainland with a generating capacity of 200 megawatts (270,000 hp).[12][13]

Power StationsEdit

Gas (thermal)Edit

Power station Coordinates Max. Capacity (MW) Turbines Fuel type
Bell Bay (Decommissioned) 41°8′31″S 146°54′9″E / 41.14194°S 146.90250°E / -41.14194; 146.90250 (Bell Bay Power Station) 0 natural gas

Gas turbineEdit

Power station Coordinates Max. Capacity (MW) Turbines Fuel type Combined cycle
Tamar Valley 41°08′24″S 146°54′20″E / 41.14000°S 146.90556°E / -41.14000; 146.90556 (Tamar Valley Power Station) 208 1 natural gas yes
Tamar Valley 41°08′24″S 146°54′20″E / 41.14000°S 146.90556°E / -41.14000; 146.90556 (Tamar Valley Power Station) 178 4 natural gas no


Power station Coordinates Max. Capacity (MW) Turbines
Bastyan 41°44′5″S 145°31′55″E / 41.73472°S 145.53194°E / -41.73472; 145.53194 (Bastyan Power Station) 79.9 1
Butlers Gorge 42°16′1″S 146°15′42″E / 42.26694°S 146.26167°E / -42.26694; 146.26167 (Butlers Gorge Power Station) 12.2 1
Catagunya 42°27′8″S 146°35′52″E / 42.45222°S 146.59778°E / -42.45222; 146.59778 (Catagunya Power Station) 48 2
Cethana 41°28′47″S 146°8′1″E / 41.47972°S 146.13361°E / -41.47972; 146.13361 (Cethana Power Station) 90 1
Cluny 42°30′23″S 146°40′52″E / 42.50639°S 146.68111°E / -42.50639; 146.68111 (Cluny Power Station) 17 1
Devils Gate 41°21′1″S 146°15′48″E / 41.35028°S 146.26333°E / -41.35028; 146.26333 (Devils Gate Power Station) 60 1
Fisher 41°40′24″S 146°16′06″E / 41.67333°S 146.26833°E / -41.67333; 146.26833 (Fisher Power Station) 43.2 1
Gordon 42°43′50″S 145°58′35″E / 42.73056°S 145.97639°E / -42.73056; 145.97639 (Gordon Hydroelectric Power Station) 432 3
John Butters 42°9′17″S 145°32′3″E / 42.15472°S 145.53417°E / -42.15472; 145.53417 (John Butters Power Station) 144 1
Lake Echo 42°15′13″S 146°37′13″E / 42.25361°S 146.62028°E / -42.25361; 146.62028 (Lake Echo Power Station) 32.4 1
Lemonthyme 41°36′14″S 146°8′29″E / 41.60389°S 146.14139°E / -41.60389; 146.14139 (Lemonthyme Power Station) 51 1
Liapootah 42°22′35″S 146°30′36″E / 42.37639°S 146.51000°E / -42.37639; 146.51000 (Liapootah Power Station) 87.3 3
Mackintosh 41°41′56″S 145°38′36″E / 41.69889°S 145.64333°E / -41.69889; 145.64333 (Mackintosh Power Station) 79.9 1
Meadowbank 42°36′46″S 146°50′39″E / 42.61278°S 146.84417°E / -42.61278; 146.84417 (Meadowbank Power Station) 40 1
Paloona 41°16′59″S 146°14′56″E / 41.28306°S 146.24889°E / -41.28306; 146.24889 (Paloona Power Station) 28 1
Poatina 41°48′42″S 146°55′8″E / 41.81167°S 146.91889°E / -41.81167; 146.91889 (Poatina Power Station) 300 6
Reece 41°43′25″S 145°8′10″E / 41.72361°S 145.13611°E / -41.72361; 145.13611 (Reece Hydroelectric Power Station) 231.2 2
Repulse 42°30′25″S 146°38′45″E / 42.50694°S 146.64583°E / -42.50694; 146.64583 (Repulse Power Station) 28 1
Rowallan 41°43′49″S 146°12′49″E / 41.73028°S 146.21361°E / -41.73028; 146.21361 (Rowallan Power Station) 10.5 1
Tarraleah 42°18′5″S 146°27′27″E / 42.30139°S 146.45750°E / -42.30139; 146.45750 (Tarraleah Power Station) 90 6
Trevallyn 41°25′26″S 147°6′41″E / 41.42389°S 147.11139°E / -41.42389; 147.11139 (Trevallyn Power Station) 90 4
Tribute 41°49′01″S 145°39′02″E / 41.81694°S 145.65056°E / -41.81694; 145.65056 (Tribute Power Station) 84 1
Tungatinah 42°16′26″S 146°27′42″E / 42.27389°S 146.46167°E / -42.27389; 146.46167 (Tungatinah Power Station) 125 5
Wayatinah 42°25′41″S 146°32′00″E / 42.42806°S 146.53333°E / -42.42806; 146.53333 (Wayatinah Power Station) 38.25 3
Wilmot 41°28′48.5″S 146°7′22.6″E / 41.480139°S 146.122944°E / -41.480139; 146.122944 (Wilmot Power Station) 30.6 1
Total 2272.45

Wind farmsEdit

Wind Farm Location Capacity (MW) Turbines
Huxley Hill Wind Farm 39°56′42″S 143°53′38″E / 39.94500°S 143.89389°E / -39.94500; 143.89389 2.5 5
Musselroe Wind Farm 40°53′14″S 148°08′28″E / 40.88722°S 148.14111°E / -40.88722; 148.14111 168 56
Woolnorth Wind Farm 40°40′50″S 144°42′02″E / 40.68056°S 144.70056°E / -40.68056; 144.70056 140 62

Key officeholdersEdit

The 46-metre (151 ft)-high Hydro building is a prominent feature on Hobart's skyline
Name Title Term begin Term end Organisation title References Comments
Sir John Butters Chief Engineer and
General Manager
1914 1924 Hydro-Electric Department, The [14]
H. A. Curtis 1925 1930 [15]
Commissioner 1930 1933 Hydro-Electric Commission. The [16] alongside Associate Commissioners:[17]
* C. B. Davies (1930–1941)
* M. W. Simmons (1930)
* R. L. Parker (1931–1935)
* J. E. Heritage (1935–1947)
* C. E. H. Ferguson (1941–1947)
* W. H. Nicol (1947–1954)
* A. Burn (1951–1959)
W. E. Maclean 1940 1946
Sir Allan Knight 1946 1977 [18]
Russell Ashton 1977 1987
Ron Harvey Acting Commissioner 1987 1989
Graeme Longbottom Commissioner 1990 1994
Gary Baker Acting Commissioner 1995 1996
Norton Dan Chief Executive Officer 1996 1998 Hydro-Electric Corporation, The [19]
Gary Baker 1998 1999
Geoff Willis 1999 2006 Hydro Tasmania
(Hydro-Electric Corporation trading as)
Vince Hawksworth 2006 2010
Roy Adair 2010 2013
Steve Davy 2013 incumbent


  • The Hon. Sir John C McPhee (1930–1934)
  • The Hon. Sir Walter Lee (1934)
  • The Hon. T.H. Davies (1934–1942)
  • The Hon. Sir Robert Cosgrove(1942–1958)
  • The Hon. Eric Reece (1958)

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Annual Report" (PDF). Hydro Tasmania. 2015. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 August 2016. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b "Our power stations". Hydro Tasmania. Retrieved 17 December 2012.
  3. ^ Lake Pedder Submission 1995 Archived 15 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Pink. Kerry (2001) Through Hells Gates: A History of Strahan and Macquarie Harbour Fifth edition ISBN 0-646-36665-3 pp.71-88 for accounts of the Organisation for Tasmanian Development and others
  5. ^ "Referendums - Tasmania". Parliament.tas.gov.au. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Year Book, Issue 87, 1995 p.552
  8. ^ "Australia utility to upgrade hydro system to add 1,000 GWh". Hydroworld.com. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  9. ^ "Carbon neutral target part of response to climate change | Hydro Tasmania". Hydro.com.au. 1 May 2008. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Hydro Tasmania Annual & Sustainability Report 2009 | Our Performance". Hydro.com.au. 30 June 2009. Archived from the original on 21 February 2011. Retrieved 23 February 2012.
  11. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/lake-gordon-capable-power-generation-despite-record-lows/7275114
  12. ^ Richards, Blair (29 December 2015). "The Mercury". themercury.com.au. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  13. ^ "More generators ordered after delays confirmed on Basslink undersea cable repair". ABC News. 13 February 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2016.
  14. ^ Linge, G. J. R. (1979). "Butters, Sir John Henry (1885–1969)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 7. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 July 2016 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  15. ^ Gilbert, H. de V. (2005). "Curtis, Harry Arthur (1882–1933)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Suppl. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 July 2016 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  16. ^ Lupton, Roger (2005). "Maclean, William Eustace (1884–1964)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Suppl. Melbourne University Press. ISSN 1833-7538. Retrieved 15 July 2016 – via National Centre of Biography, Australian National University.
  17. ^ Garvie. (1962). A million horses
  18. ^ Shepherd, Robert. "Allan Knight (1910–1998)", p.202 of The Companion to Tasmanian History.
  19. ^ Fenton, Heather (2008). Ticklebelly tales and other stories from the people of the Hydro (hbk.). Hobart: Hydro Tasmania. pp. 481–482. ISBN 978-0-646-47724-4.

Further readingEdit

Hydro Tasmania publications

  • Fenton, Heather (2008) Ticklebelly tales and other stories from the people of the Hydro, Hobart: Hydro Tasmania. ISBN 978-0-646-47724-4 (hbk.)
  • Garvie, R. M. H. (1962) A million horses: Tasmania's power in the mountains Hobart: Hydro-Electric Commission, Tasmania.
  • Lupton, Roger. (1999) Lifeblood: Tasmania's Hydro Power Publisher: Edgecliff, N.S.W. Focus Publishing, ISBN 1-87535-933-8, noting (C) Hydro Tasmania and pp. 428–430 Reviewers Biographies - 13 HEC staff and retired staff as reviewers of Luptons work - as a commissioned history
  • Quirk, Marilyn. & Arts Tasmania. & Hydro Tasmania (2006), Echoes on the mountain: remarkable migrant stories from the hydro villages of the Tasmanian central highlands' Quirk. 'Heybridge, Tas.
  • Scanlon, Andrew. (1995) Water power 2nd ed. [1st ed 1990] Hobart: Hydro-Electric Commission, Tasmania. ISBN 0-7246-4231-5

Other publications

  • Kellow, Aynsley J. (1996) Transforming power : the politics of electricity planning. Cambridge, UK; Cambridge University. ISBN 0-521-47122-2 (hbk) ISBN 0-521-47697-6 (pbk.)
  • Thompson, Peter. (1981) Power in Tasmania Hawthorn, Vic: Australian Conservation Foundation. ISBN 0-85802-067-X

External linksEdit