Greedy Green Hubris gone wrong? It took months of bad choices to achieve this Gold-Star Moment in Bad Management:
Tasmania’s state-owned Hydro-electric power generator could face legal action for damages after admitting it cloud-seeded in or near water catchments the day before disastrous flooding, although heavy rain was forecast.
Tasmania shut their only fossil fuel power plant in August last year, and relied on renewable energy and one sole Basslink electricity cable to mainland Australia. The cable was supposed to be a back up supply but was bringing in 40% of Tasmania’s electricity, and it broke in December. But a green and greedy approach in Tasmania meant that the state had already run its dams down to 26% levels by selling too much electricity to the mainland at high “renewable” subsidized prices. That was a low level at the start of summer, normally a drier season in Tasmania. After the Basslink cable broke, the dam levels fell to a precipitous 13%, so fast that the green state had to bring in diesel generators just to keep the lights on. They also switched back on the Tamar Gas plant in late January. So much for being the “100% renewable” state.
When rain was forecast in June the hydro managers must have been delighted, but even faced with the forecasts they seeded clouds on June 5th as well. (Rivers were rising on June 4 and flood warnings were valid for many areas of Tasmania.) This was the same storm system that hit Sydney on its way to Tasmania, causing deaths and threatened houses. Flood damage and losses from that same system in Tasmania now amount to around $100 million. One man is still missing, feared drowned.
The Basslink cable is projected to be fixed before the end of June, and in Tasmania they already had the wettest May since 1958. Dam levels had been restored to 20%. They only had to wait a few more weeks.
Hydro Tasmania’s cloud-seeding plane was sent up on Sunday morning and seeded clouds with silver iodide to increase rainfall for an hour and 34 minutes, from 10.57am, despite the weather forecast.
The operation targeted the Upper Derwent catchment, an area that less than 24 hours later saw damaging floods which left one man missing, feared drowned at Ouse and caused major damage to property and stock.
The cloud-seeding also was within about 10km of the Mersey-Forth catchment area, which also hours later experienced rapid and disastrous flooding that killed a woman and inundated dozens of homes at Latrobe.
One earlier report showed that cloud-seeding increased rainfall by 8% over a month in target areas. (Which is a difficult statistic to use to compare with the current situation).
The government owned Tasmanian Hydro defends itself:
“There were no flood warnings in effect for the Upper Derwent at the time of the flight,” a company statement said. “This area received a substantial, but not excessive, amount of rain after Sunday morning’s flight.
“Water in the (flooding) Ouse River came from the overtopping of Lake Augusta due to the flood event. Lake Augusta is not in the catchment targeted by Sunday’s cloud-seeding flight. Hydro Tasmania’s cloud-seeding program is currently on hold.”
Tasmania is seeking money from the rest of Australia to build a second cable. It is the ultimate welfare state basket-case.
See The Marcus Review for the full glory of the first “four part act in Tasmanian tragedy”. The latest cloud seeding debacle shows how little anyone learned.
The Marcus Review notes the whole energy debacle has cost $560m to Tasmania (not counting anything due to cloud seeding):
To put this in some perspective, the current cost of $560 million is already well over twice the $230 million it cost to build the Tamer Valley gas station.
One thing is for sure, the short term money that Hydro Tasmania made between 2012 and 2014 will be completely and utterly dwarfed by the cost of this mess.
On May 12th Tasmania Hydro proudly announced they had been 100% renewable again for a whole week. They had turned off the gas and diesel and had to use hydro because some of the smaller dams were in danger of overflowing.
For info: Tasmania has about 500,000 people, and the Bass Strait that separates it from mainland Australia is 240km wide, 400km long and about 60m deep. It is notoriously wild, and infamous for disappearing ships. It is described as twice as wide and twice as rough as the English Channel.
h/t Marcus, David B, Robert for keeping me up to date.