Australia’s AGL Energy to accelerate exit from coal power as billionaire activist installs board nominees


 Mike Cannon-Brookes
Mike Cannon-Brookes | Photo by Brook Mitchell/Getty Images

Australian utility AGL Energy will accelerate the phase out of coal power after its controlling shareholder, billionaire activist Mike Cannon-Brookes, installed four of his nominees to the company’s board.

The company will phase out the Loy Yang coal-fired power station in the Latrobe Valley, about 165 kilometers south east of Melbourne by 2035, 10 years earlier than previously announced. It will also investing up to A$20 billion ($18.4 billion) to build as much as 12 gigawatts of new renewable energy capacity by 2036, AGL chairwoman Patricia McKenzie said at the company’s annual shareholders meeting.

A quicker shift to renewables is the company’s priorities going forward as Cannon-Brookes appointed four of his nominees to the board, including Mark Twidell, a former Tesla executive, former Energy Security Board chair Kerry Schott, CSR Ltd. director Christine Holman and ex-Pacific Brands Ltd. CEO John Pollaers.

“As Australia’s largest carbon emitter, and Australia’s leading private investor in renewable energy and the operator of the largest portfolio of renewable and battery assets of any ASX-listed company, AGL can make a material difference in reducing the nation’s carbon footprint by taking the steps outlined in our new strategic direction,” McKenzie said.

Cannon-Brookes—Australia’s fifth richest person with a net worth of $9.1 billion—became AGL’s largest shareholder in May to help accelerate the decarbonization of the 185-year-old utility, increase investments in clean energy projects and improve profits. The cofounder and co-CEO of collaboration software firm Atlassian, has been stepping up investments in renewable energy and is a key backer of Sun Cable, billed as the world’s largest solar project, along with mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest.

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