A $30 billion project to send solar-generated power made in Australia to Singapore has been placed in voluntary administration (VA) amid a reported falling out between its key backers, the tech and mining billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Dr Andrew Forrest.
Cannon-Brookes and Forrest are cornerstone investors in Singapore-based Sun Cable – the Atlassian co-founder through his private family investment firm, Grok Ventures, and the Fortescue Metals Group founder through Squadron Energy, a subsidiary of his investment company, Tattarang.
The Sun Cable Australia-Asia PowerLink (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 (HVDC) cable system, at around 4,200km running from Darwin to Singapore along the Indonesian archipelago.
The project is expected to take six to seven years to complete and provide up to 15% of Singapore’s power needs. It has the backing of the federal and NT governments, as well as international regulatory support
Christopher Hill, David McGrath and John Park of FTI Consulting have been appointed as voluntary administrators of Sun Cable, with a company statement saying that the move “followed the absence of alignment with the objectives of all shareholders” and that “consensus on the future direction and funding structure of the company could not be achieved”.
Founder and CEO David Griffin is hoping the VA process will produce a path forward for the project and provide access additional capital.
“Sun Cable has made extraordinary progress in developing the AAPowerLink. This project remains well placed for completion,” he said.
“As we have progressed our work, the demand for delivering reliable, dispatchable 24/7 renewable energy in the NT and the region has risen materially. Sun Cable looks forward to developing and operating the projects to meet this demand.”
Administrators have not been appointed to any of the company’s subsidiaries and FTI Consulting plans to work with the Sun Cable’s management team and key stakeholders on the next steps for the business.
The likely outcome is seeking expressions of interest for either a recapitalisation or sale of the business.
Whether Forrest or Cannon-Brookes, Sun Cable’s chair, make a play for the project to own it outright remains to be seen.
Alongside the wildly ambitious AAPowerLink project, Sun Cable also has a further 11 GW of proposed projects on its drawing board.
Cannon-Brookes said Sun Cable has achieved so much since it was founded in 2018 and remains supportive of the business.
“I’m confident it will play a huge role in delivering green energy for the world, right here from Australia,” he said.
“I fully back this ambition and the team, and look forward to supporting the company’s next chapter.”