Hydro Tasmania

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Hydro-Electric Corporation
Hydro Tasmania
Formerly called
Hydro-Electric Commission
Government enterprise
Industry Utilities
Founded 1929; 88 years ago (1929)
Headquarters Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
Area served
Key people
G. Every-Burns (Chairman)
S. Davey (CEO)
Products 2,615 megawatts (3,507,000 hp) of electricity
Services Electricity generation
A$1,500 million (2015)
A$62 million (2015)
Total assets A$5,195 million (2015)
Owner Government of Tasmania
Number of employees
1062 (2015)
Subsidiaries Momentum Energy, Entura
Website www.hydro.com.au
Footnotes / references

Hydro Tasmania, known for most of its history as the Hydro-Electric Commission 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]

The Minister for Energy, currently the Hon. Matthew Groom 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 is 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. Both these power stations were taken over by the HEC and closed in 1955 and 2006 respectively

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 making[edit]

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 reached[edit]

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.

Legacy of the HEC[edit]

The organisation clearly was an important one in the history of Tasmania, and thousands of Tasmanians have been employed or are related to employees and past employees. In recognition of its place in history, not just in environmental issues controversy, the organisation has employed staff to work on the legacy and cultural heritage of the Hydro.

The people who had been employees of the HEC in the 1940s to the 1980s were an important part of the population of Tasmania, and the heritage and oral history issues of the institution have been acknowledged by the recent management of Hydro Tasmania in employing people to make a reasonable record of that era, and earlier.

The responsibility to its heritage has not prevented the organisation in its move to rationalise, and the current status of the Lake Margaret Power Station has led the Hydro to have produced a comprehensive heritage survey of the site prior to its decommissioning as an active part of the system.

From HEC to Hydro Tasmania[edit]

Hydro Tasmania was formed on the disaggregation of the Hydro-Electric Commission on 1 July 1998. This resulted in the Commission being split into three separate state-owned companies—Hydro Tasmania which generates the power, Transend Networks which transmits it across the state, and Aurora Energy, the retail arm, which sells and distributes it to customers. This was in anticipation of Tasmania joining the National Electricity Market, which occurred in May 2005. Transend has since merged with Aurora's distribution arm to form TasNetworks.

There is a case in Tasmania for Hydro Tasmania to be privatised;[citation needed] both to raise revenue and to improve 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 Labor allowed Hydro Tasmania to sell its subsidiary software business, Hydstra, to a German competitor and again in 2005 when they allowed the sale of part of its financial interests in wind farm company, Roaring 40s to a Chinese 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.

The Hydro of the first decade of the 21st century saw the loss of the old dam building generation, to an adept at accommodating larger worldwide trends—The Anthony Power Development, was considered to be part of the last hydro-electric power development in Tasmania.[7] The 1,000 GWH Project has seen upgrades to component parts of existing superstructure operated by the Hydro, and on-going progress towards being a carbon neutral operation.[8][9][10]

Starting from the 1990s, Hydro Tasmania is investing in wind farms, the first one being the Huxley Hill Wind Farm on King Island 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]

In 2014 the Hydro celebrated 100 years of operation, and conducted a range of events, and collected stories from former employees [11]

2016 crisis[edit]

See also 2016 Tasmanian energy crisis

In early 2016, the Hydro system was reaching the lowest water levels ever encountered, during the 2016 power crisis.[12]

Power Stations[edit]

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 turbine[edit]

Power station Coordinates Max. Capacity (MW) Turbines Fuel type Combined cycle
Tamar Valley 208 5 natural gas yes


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

Wind farms[edit]

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 officeholders[edit]

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
Butters, Sir JohnSir John Butters Chief Engineer and
General Manager
1914 1924 Hydro-Electric Department, The [13]
Curtis, H. A.H. A. Curtis 1925 1930 [14]
Commissioner 1930 1933 Hydro-Electric Commission. The [15] alongside Associate Commissioners:[16]
* 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)
Maclean, W. E.W. E. Maclean 1940 1946
Knight, Sir AllanSir Allan Knight 1946 1977 [17]
Ashton, RussellRussell Ashton 1977 1987
Harvey, RonRon Harvey Acting Commissioner 1987 1989
Longbottom, GraemeGraeme Longbottom Commissioner 1990 1994
Baker, GaryGary Baker Acting Commissioner 1995 1996
Dan, NortonNorton Dan Chief Executive Officer 1996 1998 Hydro-Electric Corporation, The [18]
Baker, GaryGary Baker 1998 1999
Willis, GeoffGeoff Willis 1999 2006 Hydro Tasmania
(Hydro-Electric Corporation trading as)
Hawksworth, VinceVince Hawksworth 2006 2010
Adair, RoyRoy Adair 2010 2013
Davy, SteveSteve 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 also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Annual Report" (PDF). Hydro Tasmania. 2015. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Our power stations". Hydro Tasmania. Retrieved 17 December 2012. 
  3. ^ Lake Pedder Submission 1995
  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 2012-02-23. 
  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 2012-02-23. 
  9. ^ "Carbon neutral target part of response to climate change | Hydro Tasmania". Hydro.com.au. 2008-05-01. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  10. ^ "Hydro Tasmania Annual & Sustainability Report 2009 | Our Performance". Hydro.com.au. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2012-02-23. 
  11. ^ http://www.hydro100.com.au/
  12. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-24/lake-gordon-capable-power-generation-despite-record-lows/7275114
  13. ^ Linge, G. J. R. (1979). "Butters, Sir John Henry (1885–1969)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. 7. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  14. ^ Gilbert, H. de V. (2005). "Curtis, Harry Arthur (1882–1933)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Suppl. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  15. ^ Lupton, Roger (2005). "Maclean, William Eustace (1884–1964)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Suppl. Canberra: Australian National University. Retrieved 15 July 2016. 
  16. ^ Garvie. (1962). A million horses
  17. ^ Shepherd, Robert. "Allan Knight (1910–1998)", p.202 of The Companion to Tasmanian History.
  18. ^ 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 reading[edit]

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 links[edit]