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A lost opportunity

Weekly column from Council Courier e-newsletter by CEO Greg Hallam, Friday 26, May 2017.

Here’s a story of how an insular mindset is the enemy of innovation.

The LGAQ received a letter on Monday from Energy Queensland CEO David Smales who said: “I see street lights as assets that will remain with Energy Queensland as a Government Owned Corporation.

That, in a nutshell, is a refusal of the LGAQ’s formal bid to purchase or lease the State’s street light network and with it the hope of providing every Queensland street with LED lights and a fast track to connectivity within five years.

The LGAQ’s proposal was for a state-wide world class system that would reduce electricity consumption by at least 40 percent and in turn offer many other citizens friendly cost saving initiatives.  Any profits from this system would have gone into improving services or direct cash dividends to local councils.

Energy Queensland says it has its own plans for street lighting reform - not that you would know it from its published strategies. We will be watching what it does to achieve this. But our suspicions are these: Energy Queensland has no incentive to reduce electricity consumption given the nature of its retail business, will do a dribs and drabs model roll out across the state and, by our estimate, will not provide universal coverage inside a decade, if ever. Worse still any profits will not be local. The State Government will continue to retain them.

Our bid was twice unanimously endorsed by the South-East Queensland Council of Mayors and once by the full LGAQ Policy Executive.

Our submission was highly professional and well canvassed within Government.

Energy Queensland’s rejection is salt in the wound for local government given that the Sunshine Coast Council spent a frustrating three years trying to implement a similar arrangement in its region. The Council met the same brick wall the LGAQ has now encountered.

The LGAQ gave it our best shot. Queensland is the loser from this short-sighted decision.  Moreover, councils will see this decision for what it is.

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