Billionaire’s solar deal revives undersea power cable dream
By James Fernyhough
(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes will revive a stalled A$30 billion ($20 billion) plan to export solar power from Australia to Singapore after acquiring the assets of the failed Sun Cable project.
The deal gives Cannon-Brookes and Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners control of a vast renewable energy development in northern Australia, which went into voluntary administration in January following a dispute between the Atlassian Corp. co-founder and fellow billionaire Andrew Forrest, both key investors. The two disagreed over a plan to transport electricity to Asia through a 4,200-kilometer (2,600-mile) submarine cable.
“We’ve always believed in the possibilities Sun Cable presents in exporting our boundless sunshine, and what it could mean for Australia,” said Cannon-Brookes, who backs the export plan.
The project has been touted as among initiatives that could help Asia’s fossil-fuel dominated economies — particularly space constrained nations like Singapore with little room to install major renewables sites — to shift to lower-emissions electricity sources. Developers envisioned Sun Cable as part of a potential super-grid that could connect Japan to India.
Cannon-Brookes’s Grok Ventures and Quinbrook, which is developing solar assets in the US and UK, aim to progress plans for a first stage project that would to deliver 900 megawatts of clean electricity to Darwin and export 1.8 gigawatts to Singapore.
Their deal covers Sun Cable’s intellectual property, a solar farm site in the Northern Territory, and advanced permitting for a transmission line to Darwin. No construction work has yet begun. The buyers and administrator FTI Consulting Inc. didn’t disclose details of the acquisition price.
Forrest’s Squadron Energy had put forward a proposal earlier in the sale process, according to people familiar with the matter. Squadron did not submit a final bid and isn’t swayed on the merits of exporting power to Singapore, Forrest said in a statement Friday.
“We remain unconvinced of the commercial viability of the Australia-Asia Powerlink but if others believe it can be achieved, we wish them all the best,” said Forrest, founder of iron ore producer Fortescue Metals Group Ltd.
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