AGL Energy partners with Mike Cannon-Brookes-backed Sydney startup SunDrive to build solar panels

Cheyanne Enciso
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Energy giant AGL has teamed up with a Sydney-based technology company SunDrive.
Energy giant AGL has teamed up with a Sydney-based technology company SunDrive. Credit: AAP

Energy giant AGL has teamed up with a Sydney-based technology company backed by its biggest shareholder, tech magnate Mike Cannon-Brooks, to explore building solar panels in the Hunter Region in NSW.

AGL and SunDrive on Thursday announced it would begin a feasibility study on an advanced manufacturing facility at the electricity supplier’s shuttered Liddell coal power station.

The announcement coincides with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledging $1 billion to support the development of solar panel manufacturing in Australia, including in the coal-rich Hunter Valley.

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Mr Albanese said the funding would assist Australia become a “renewable energy superpower” and advance the country’s manufacturing capabilities.

“That is my government’s vision. Clean, cheap energy, making more things here, skilling up young Australians and retraining Australians as well for the jobs of the future,” he said.

“As part of our commitment to see workers paid more and also to keep more of what they earn through our tax cuts going to every single Australian taxpayer. That is very much my government mission for the economy going forward.”

AGL last April shut its Liddell power facility as part of its refreshed decarbonisation plan, with the company now looking to repurpose it and the Bayswater plant, set to close two years earlier in 2033.

AGL and SunDrive will now work to outline key infrastructure and engineering requirements and identify the regulatory approvals and licences necessary for the development, construction, and operation of a solar photovoltaic manufacturing facility located in AGL’s Hunter Energy Hub.

The two parties will also explore an offtake agreement for AGL to purchase SunDrive’s solar panels for its customers.

Despite Australia boasting the highest uptake of solar panels in the world, with one in three households installing panels, only one per cent of panels were made in Australia.

Announcing the partnership alongside Mr Albanese, AGL managing director Damien Hicks said the partnership had the potential to help create a new solar manufacturing industry in Australia.

“Our vision for the Hunter Energy Hub is to create a low carbon integrated energy hub — designed with circular economy principles — that brings together industries that can make a positive contribution to the energy transition, including renewable energy generation, grid-scale batteries, green advanced manufacturing, and associated industries,” he said.

“Our partnership with SunDrive has the potential to deliver significant benefits for Australia’s energy transition.

“If successful we will create new jobs and careers in the renewables industry as together, we build a new solar manufacturing industry and hub right here in the NSW Upper Hunter region.”

SunDrive founder and chief executive Vince Allen said it was excited to be working with AGL to bring world-leading Australian-made solar to rooftops.

“SunDrive is exploring the opportunity of a facility at AGL’s Hunter Energy Hub thanks to the vision, skills and workforce of the region that are critical to achieving Australia’s renewable energy ambitions,” he said.

SunDrive also counts Blackbird Ventures and Main Sequence Ventures among its investors.

Mr Cannon-Brookes, the co-founder of software firm Atlassian, owns a stake in SunDrive through his Grok Ventures, which owns about 10 per cent of AGL.

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