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Friday, February 03, 2006

Basslink cable wrangle

The Mercury: Basslink cable wrangle [04feb06]

HE parties involved in the $780 million Basslink project are disputing the progress of the project.

Contractor Siemens says 630 megawatts of electricity had been transmitted across the undersea cable and it was "technically completed" by January 26.

However, owner National Grid says there are still technical issues with the equipment.

"The independent project inspector needs to tick off on it and until then it is not fully operational and has not been commissioned," corporate affairs director Jon Richards said.

Siemens spokesman Brad Voss said 630 megawatts had been transmitted for six hours on January 16.

Hydro Tasmania spokeswoman Helen Brain said the organisation was still working to take over operation of Basslink from April 29.

The dispute over the completion date is of keen interest to both Siemens and National Grid, which are liable for liquidated damages because the project was not completed by the original target date of November 30, 2005.

Damage to six of the 200-tonne transformers during shipping set the project back by six months.

The damages, likely to run into millions, are payable for every day the project is late under the Basslink Development Agreement.

As a result of the lateness, Hydro has missed out on the chance of selling highly priced electricity to Victoria and South Australia during the summer.

As well, the State Government was forced to spend $39 million on the Bell Bay gas-fired power station.

Mr Richards said there was no set or anticipated date for completion.

"We are still saying April 30 but we hope it will be before," he said.

The project inspector, Robert Cooper of Evans Peck, will sign a certificate of completion when he is satisfied the project is finished.

Hydro Tasmania is expected to pay about $92 million a year over 25 years for the use of Basslink.


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