The future of a $21-billion solar project to relay power from Australia to Singapore is in doubt following disagreements between its main backers – two Australian billionaires.
Sun Cable, the Singapore-based developer of the the Australia-Asia PowerLink project, said on Wednesday it had appointed voluntary administrators after the two billionaires, Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest, failed to agree on a new round of funding.
The solar energy project aimed to employ the world’s longest undersea cable to deliver power from Australia to Singapore and beyond. It aimed to provide Singapore with up to 15% of its energy requirements.
Sun Cable also received a permit from Indonesia in 2021 to conduct an underwater survey starting immediately after it committed to investing $2.5 billion in the country.
The company’s collapse comes less than a year after it raised A$210 million ($145 million) from Cannon-Brookes and Forrest.
“While funding proposals were provided, consensus on the future direction and funding structure of the company could not be achieved,” the company said in a statement.
The company’s large spending and failure to meet targets set in its funding agreements led to the lack of consensus between the two, ABC News reported.
Tech billionaire and climate activist Cannon-Brookes, who became chairman of Sun Cable in October, said he remained confident in the project.
Its construction, involving a 20 gigawatt (GW) solar farm and 42 gigawatt hours (GWh) of energy storage in northern Australia, was due to begin in 2024. The ABC said the farm was expected to span 12,000 hectares and set to be operational by 2029.
“I fully back this ambition and the team, and look forward to supporting the company’s next chapter,” Cannon-Brookes said in the statement. He added he was “confident” of the project’s ability to deliver “green energy for the world,” according to the ABC report.
The statement offered no comment from iron ore magnate Andrew Forrest’s privately owned Squadron Energy, Sun Cable’s other big stakeholder.
It is still possible Squadron could put together a funding deal for the administrators, said a person familiar with the company’s thinking who sought anonymity because of confidentiality provisions.
Future steps are likely to involve voluntary administrators FTI Consulting seeking fresh capital or selling the business entirely, Sun Cable said. Finding ‘additional capital’ was essential for its future projects, the company added.
- Reuters, with additional editing by Vishakha Saxena