Seven companies are vying to take Canberra's costly and inefficient street light network off the ACT government's hands, in a seemingly intractable push to outsource its management.
The government has been looking to outsource the management of the territory's 79,000 street lights since last year, after it decided against full privatisation.
The sale, first floated by then Liberal Chief Minister Kate Carnell in the late 1990s, would have brought the ACT into line with other jurisdictions and saved on the cost of running the lights.
Selling the street lights would have also given the ACT a 15 per cent bonus on top of the sale price under the federal government's asset recycling scheme.
But despite what an ACT government spokeswoman described as "significant" interest both nationally and internationally, a tender that went out in November 2015 was unsuccessful.
"Following a detailed and rigorous evaluation process, the government decided to retain ownership of the streetlight assets and approach the market through a multiple-staged procurement process," the spokeswoman said.
Instead, the government said it would seek external management for the street lights, with public procurement to take place in the first half of 2016-17.
A request for proposal last September attracted 14 submissions, seven of which were selected to tender for the network in December.
From here, two or three tenderers will be chosen to to enter into an interactive tendering process, while undertaking an audit of the streetlight network.
A timeline for this process was not provided.
The successful tenderer would need to sign up to an Energy Efficiency Performance contract, agreeing to upgrade the energy efficiency of the lights and provide a "backbone" platform for future Smart City options over the next seven years, the spokeswoman said.
Until this is finalised, the ACT government will bear the cost for more than 79,000 lights on streets, footpaths, arterial roads and in various public parks and other open spaces around the ACT.
The annual contract payments will be within the current budget for street light operation, maintenance and electricity.
Public lighting accounts for a quarter of the electricity used by the ACT government and costs about $5 million per year to run.
It also produces 18 per cent of the government's greenhouse gas emissions.
Meanwhile the territory government has pushed ahead on installing new lights in five under-illuminated spots around the city.
Tenders have been sought for putting in lights at Mirrabei Drive at Amaroo, the Ginninderra Drive underpass at Charnwood, the Coulter Drive underpass near Egan Court, the car park around the Evatt shops and the Tharwa Drive pathway and underpass at Condor.
The work would also include upgrading existing lights in the areas to LED.