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No guarantee Tasmanian households won’t be hardest hit by Marinus Link bill

It was the hot topic of letters between former prime minister Scott Morrison and the Tasmanian government — and it appears there’s still no guarantee Australia’s poorest state won’t pay half the cost of a massive new power project and reap a fraction of the benefits.

The undersea electricity interconnectors and new transmission infrastructure between Tasmania and Victoria, dubbed Marinus Link, are estimated to cost $3.5 billion to build.

The Commonwealth and Tasmanian Governments have already committed over $200 million to pay for feasibility studies and a business case, and a Final Investment Decision is set for 2024.

But both governments privately acknowledged most of the benefits will go to mainland electricity customers and Tasmanian energy generators, including Hydro Tasmania and wind farm owners, and not to Tasmanian consumers.

This was made clear in a letter from former Tasmanian premier Will Hodgman and current Energy Minister Guy Barnett to then prime minister Scott Morrison, made public under a Right to Information request.

“Given the overwhelming majority of benefits from Project Marinus will flow to National Electricity Market (NEM) regions other than Tasmania, the Tasmanian government cannot justify a funding scenario in which Tasmanian taxpayers or electricity customers incur additional costs to benefit other NEM regions,” they wrote.

Mr Hodgman and Mr Barnett were making it clear to Mr Morrison that a way would have to be found to ensure Tasmanians didn’t have to pay for half of Marinus Link since they wouldn’t get half of the benefits.

But Mr Morrison wasn’t certain that could happen before a final decision was made on whether to build the new interconnectors.

An artist impression of an undersea cable to be built as part of the Marinus Link.(Marinus Link)

So what are the rules locking consumers into Marinus costs?

Marinus Link is proposed to be a regulated interconnector — that means the investors who pay for it to be built will get a guarantee they will be repaid whatever money they put in, as well as a set extra return on top of that.

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