Australia utility to upgrade hydro system to add 1,000 GWh

Hydro Tasmania, operator of 28 hydropower plants and more than 50 large dams in Australia, plans to increase its generation by 1,000 gigawatt-hours, mainly by expansion and upgrades of its hydropower system.

Tasmania State Premier Paul Lennon announced May 1 the utility's commitment to become Australia's first carbon-neutral generator by 2012 as part of a strategic response to climate change.

Currently generating about 9,000 GWh annually, Hydro Tasmania plans to up its output another 1,000 GWh through investments of more than A$400 million (US$374.5 million) over the next 12 years.

The utility already has identified plans for catchment diversions and diversion upgrades, increases in existing storage, mini-hydropower schemes, and new power station development or redevelopment of existing power stations.

Hydro Tasmania said the 1,000 GWh project is the result of ongoing pressure of Australia's drought on the Tasmania hydro system and the need to maximize the renewable energy capability of that system. Utility Chief Executive Officer Vince Hawksworth said the hydro system storage currently is less than 19 percent full.

Hydro Tasmania emitted 642,000 tones of carbon dioxide in the last fiscal year, mainly from its Bell Bay gas-fired plant, which is to be decommissioned as early as 2009.

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