State aims to sell power assets

Faced with a worsening budget deficit, the Queensland government has flagged the sale of a suite of assets in a bid to rein in debt levels.

Faced with a worsening budget deficit, the Queensland government has flagged the sale of a suite of assets in a bid to rein in debt levels.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said ‘‘scoping studies’’ had been initiated on either the sale or lease of electricity generators CS Energy and Stanwell Corporation.

Studies are also under way into selling Townsville and Gladstone ports.

But for power distributors Energex and Ergon, along with the high-voltage network operator Powerlink, the situation is less clear.

‘‘We have said in terms of Energex and Ergon in particular, we are going to look at private-sector investment while still maintaining control ... as well as Powerlink,’’ Mr Nicholls said.

The Queensland government said it intended to seek a mandate at the next state election for the measures, which were recommended by the Costello Commission of Audit earlier in the year.

The mooted privatisation of power assets in Queensland comes as the NSW government is pursuing the sale of its remaining power generators, while it is expected to seek a mandate to sell the power distributors at the 2015 state elections.

Earlier this week the NSW government formally began the sale process for the remaining power stations owned by Delta Energy, the Vales Point and Colongra units, with indicative bids due during the first quarter of 2014.

Bidding is already under way for the Macquarie Generation stations in the Hunter Valley, with AGL and ERM Power two of the intended bidders. Earlier, Origin Energy bought Eraring and the Hong Kong-owned EnergyAustralia power stations at Lithgow, west of Sydney. Also on the block is a collection of small renewable-energy power stations.

Unlike most parts of the national electricity market, Queensland is faced with expanding power demand, largely to feed the processing facilities of export gas projects.

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