When $1.5b in profits aren’t enough

STATE-owned energy companies poured $1.5 billion of profits into the State Labor Government's coffers last financial year, but the dividend bonanza still did not stop spiralling debt.

The Courier-Mail can reveal the energy-powered profits were $333 million more than Treasury originally forecast - enough to hand about $175 back to every Queensland household.

The profit surge was sparked by a huge spike in demand as retailers from southern states locked up Queensland's excess generation capacity following the closure of several old coal-fired power stations on the National Electricity Market.

The near-record total profits from network businesses Energex and Ergon Energy and generation companies Stanwell and CS Energy, which have been detailed in new annual reports, did not halt Queensland's debt trajectory with another $1.2 billion added to Treasury's borrowing bill in 2018-19.

However the Government's days of plundering big power profits may be coming to an end with competition from renewables and subdued demand growth forecast by Treasury to significantly reduce dividends over the next few years.

 

Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington accused the Palaszczuk Government of keeping electricity prices artificially high to make more profit.

"This is a secret tax grab from Labor and it shows how little Annastacia Palaszczuk cares about families and businesses which are struggling to pay their bills," she said.

"Every energy customer in Queensland is paying more to fund Labor's financial incompetence," she said.

However Energy Minister Anthony Lynham said Ms Frecklington was demonstrating her "disdain and ignorance" of Queensland's publicly owned power assets.

"The increased revenue reflects increased demand in the national electricity market so the people being taxed are energy consumers in southern states who buy electricity from our generators to the benefit of Queensland power customers," he said.

Dr Lynham said the Government had used the energy profits to reduce prices for all Queensland consumers, including $465 million to subsidise regional power prices, $267 million for affordability programs and $100 million to cut $50 off 1.9 million household power bills.