Ageing coal-fired power station in NSW sells for millions of dollars to private owners

Australia: Taxpayers in New South Wales will feel "rightly upset" by the sale of an old coal-fired power plant, according to opponents including the state's opposition. The prospect of the sale resulted in profits of hundreds of millions of dollars to the private owners.

According to Delta Electricity, the 1,320 MW Wells Point power plant in the NSW Hunter area was sold to Czech billionaire Pavel Tyka, who owns Save.N Global Investments.

The property, which Delta Electricity bought from the state government in 2015 for just $1 million, was sold for an undisclosed amount.

The buyer reportedly paid more than $200 million for the plant, generating a healthy return that was topped by the $130 million in dividends that Delta's owners, Trevor St. Baker and Brian Flannery, received over the past three years.

According to St. Baker, Delta still believes it will be needed "well into the future" for the domestic electricity market. He suggested that the plant could remain open even after its anticipated closure in 2029.

The company has opportunities for expansion, and it will be easier to do so within a portfolio that includes Save.N's other baseload-enabled generation interests, they said in a statement. Sev.en has demonstrated commitment to the industry and ambition to expand in Australia and globally, so sales will facilitate this growth.

11% of NSW power comes from Wells Point. When Renew Economy reported that the new owners' relocation liabilities were capped at just $10 million, leaving taxpayers potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to pay for cleanup costs, Delta paid for the property at the cost. The debate heats up in 2019.

In 2019, Sev.en acquired 50 percent of InterGen, a business that runs Queensland's Colloid Sea and Millmeran coal power plants, which have a combined capacity of 1,770 MW. Sev.en claims to specialize in "conventional" energy and own four gas-fired power plants in the UK as well as nine coal mines in the US states of Kentucky and West Virginia.

Save.N CEO Alan Svoboda said the company makes strategic investments with a long-term commitment. "We constantly look for ways to improve our company's sustainability, support the neighborhood, and care for workers."

Jihad Dib, NSW Labor spokesman on energy and climate change, said the sale still required Foreign Investment Review Board approval, but it showed "how much the government's privatization agenda has hurt the people of NSW. "

According to Dibb, the people of NSW will feel abused by the announcement of this sale. To keep the lights on, "NSW will experience severe shortages and supply issues over the next few years, and [Energy Minister] Matt Keane and the government will be at the whim of private operators."

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According to Tim Buckley, director of climate energy finance, the sale of the plant to Save.N was the "worst of all results".

Who will really hold them accountable? Buckley said. "Twice, we've been duped. First, with $1 million in sales, and then with cleanup expenses.

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