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Queensland’s state-owned power firms’ profit bonanza

Queensland’s state-owned power firms’ profit bonanza

Queensland’s state-owned power companies made an extra $269 million in profit last financial year to deliver a $1.65 billion dividend to the Palaszczuk Labor government.

As households and businesses struggled with record power bills, the state-owned generators and retailers exceeded profit forecasts for the 2017-18 financial year, sparking opposition claims of price-gouging by the government.

Energy Queensland, formed by a merger despite warnings from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, posted an $809m profit, up $197m on forecasts for its second full year of operation.

State-owned generator Stanwell, which produces 30 per cent of Queensland’s power, also reaped a $100 million premium on its profit forecasts to $490.8m. The windfall was despite the government being forced by industry last year to order Stanwell to pursue less profit after it charged massive wholesale prices on the National Electricity Market through its bidding practices over the previous summer. Company annual reports, released late yesterday, show the generators and networks will deliver a $1.65bn dividend to Palaszczuk government — a $584m jump on that collected by the Newman Liberal National government in 2013-14, its last full year in office.

Queensland Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said the dividends would fund a government pledge to keep price rises below ­inflation for two years. It will also fund a $50 annual payment to households, and other “rewards” for customers who pay bills monthly.

“Over 90 per cent of the dividends or profits received from Queensland’s publicly owned energy businesses in 2018-19 and 2019-20 will be invested back into energy affordability measures for electricity consumers,’’ Mr Lynham said. “The Palaszczuk government will spend almost half-a-billion dollars to subsidise the cost of electricity for around 700,000 consumers in regional Queensland, so they pay a similar price to those in southeast Queensland.” More than $200m will go to concessions, rebates and assistance programs for vulnerable customers.

Liberal National energy spokesman Michael Hart accused the government of imposing “a secret tax’’ on households and businesses. “Annastacia Palaszczuk is using Queensland energy users like cash cows, ripping massive profits and dividends from government electricity entities,’’ he said.

In July, an ACCC report called for the state government to split and privatise the state-owned generators to cut prices. It blamed increasing market concentration, particularly with the state-owned companies, for a rise in power prices in recent years. The two state-owned generation companies, CS Energy and Stanwell, supply 66 per cent of the state’s power. The government and state opposition rejected the ACCC proposal.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor said last night: “The Queensland government is profiting from the electricity bill shock to every Queenslander.”

The Australian

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