Tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes says Australia has itself to blame for the current energy crisis.
“At some point we have to admit we have made this problem ourselves,” he told a business summit on Wednesday.
“We got into this with 10-plus years of inaction.”
He said the cause is simple – not enough renewable energy in the grid, broken generators, and coal and gas are very expensive .
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The disruptive investor in Australia’s biggest energy company AGL earlier this year thwarted the company’s planned demerger, saying it was bad for shareholders, customers and staff, and ousted the leadership team.
Mr Cannon-Brookes wants to accelerate the closure of coal-fired power plants and, despite the failed buyout of AGL, is pushing ahead as the biggest shareholder in Australia’s biggest emitter.
“It’s horribly shameful and we’re going to fix it,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
“We need to rebuild the board with a much more ambitious, forward-thinking, progressive board, for shareholders, for the environment and for workers,” he said.
But the co-founder of Atlassian was coy about whether he would become a director.
He says he is putting forward strong candidates, but warned “this is not your standard ASX board job” eating sandwiches and drinking coffee in the board room on the top floor.
“This is the largest decarbonisation project in the world,” Mr Cannon-Brookes said.
A clear closure plan for AGL’s coal-fired power plants could allow other projects to attract capital and become viable.
“Somewhere in the 2030 to 2035 range is the likely date,” he said.
He said large customers had already told the generator they want 100 per cent renewable energy when their contracts come up in 2028 and 2029.
A partner in a separate giant solar project in the north that will connect to Asia, he said Australia also has an opportunity to create the country’s largest export industry with renewable energy.
Also speaking at the AFR ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) summit, investment banker Catherine McCormack said a big pillar of the campaign to buy out AGL was the opportunity to support the energy transition.
She said companies had moved from having an “exit strategy” to being part of decarbonising economies.
But there’s a real lack of policy from government on transition, she said.
“It’s about bringing stakeholders together to at least try to put a policy framework in place.”
Mr Cannon-Brookes rejected more gas extraction and new gas-fired power plants as a solution to the energy crisis.
There is enough existing gas generation to support a grid that is 85 per cent powered by renewables, he said.
He also ridiculed nuclear energy on the grounds it’s an expensive source of energy that takes decades to build, compared to solar, wind and battery storage.
“Especially in this country, it makes no sense, absolutely illogical,” he said.