Atlassian’s Mike Cannon-Brookes wins the billionaires battle for flailing renewable energy startup Sun Cable

- May 26, 2023 2 MIN READ
Mike Cannon-Brookes
Mike Cannon-Brookes
The battle for control of failed renewable energy startup Sun Cable between billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest has been won by the Atlassian cofounder.

Sun Cable’s voluntary administrators FTI Consulting, announced on Friday afternoon that they’d entered into an asset sale agreement (“ASA”) with Helietta Holdings 1 Pty Ltd, an entity affiliated with Grok Ventures, the family VC fund of Cannon-Brookes to acquire Sun Cable’s assets and subsidiaries.

The transaction is expected to allow for unsecured creditors of Sun Cable to be paid in full, FTI Consulting said in a statement. The deal is

Grok has partnered with specialist renewable energy investor Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners on the deal, which is expected to go through before the end of July 2023.

“The buyer’s intention is to continue to progress the Australia-Asia Power Link (“AAPowerLink”) project to a Final Investment Decision with Stage 1 to deliver 0.9GW of generation into Darwin and 1.8GW into Singapore,” FTI said.

“The Administrators will work with the buyer to facilitate ongoing development of AAPowerLink in the period up to completion.”

A falling out Cannon-Brookes and Forrest over the strategic direction of the project facilitated the $30 billion project being placed in voluntary administration in mid January.

After it fell over, Cannon-Brookes lent the business $65 million to keep the show on the road as the administrators looked for a buyer.

The software and mining billionaires doubled down on the Sun Cable project in $210 million Series B in March last year. The pair first kicked into the Sun Cable concept in 2019 which the Atlassian boss calling the concept “batshit crazy insane” when it was first floated.

But as the project progressed, Forrest had growing concerns about the company’s operations and direction. Speculation was that he was looking at redirecting the solar and battery farm’s energy towards green hydrogen production. The mining magnate had expressed interest in buying the business when it slid into administration.

Singapore-based Sun Cable’s AAPowerLink is a 17-20-gigawatt (GW) solar farm and up to 42GWh battery storage near Tennant Creek, in the Northern Territory, connected to the world’s longest undersea High Voltage Direct Current cable system, at around 4,200km running from Darwin to Singapore.

The project is expected to take six to seven years to complete and create more than 1500 jobs in construction and 350 operational jobs. The $30 billion bill for the project is five times bigger than the updated $5.9 billion cost of Snowy Hydro 2.0.

A statement from Helietta consortium said they “will deep dive with management over the coming weeks and have more to say about the design and development priorities for the project moving forward”, describing it as having “the potential to be a nation-building project for Australia”.

Cannon Brookes said “it’s time to stretch our country’s ambition” with a project he’d always believed in.

“We need to take big swings if we are going to be a renewable energy superpower. So swing we will,” he said.

Quinbrook cofounder David Scaysbrook said they were pleased to support Grok in the acquisition.

“Quinbrook will focus on delivering on the opportunity afforded by Northern Australia’s abundant solar and wind energy resources and showcasing the important and complimentary role that the worlds most advanced storage technologies can offer in supplying energy intensive industry with reliable and competitively priced, carbon free power solutions,” he said.

“Sun Cable is a visionary undertaking by any measure.”