Can a tech billionaire squash Australia’s coal industry by buying it? – by Alice Klein (New Scientist – February 22, 2022)

Mike Cannon-Brookes, the third-richest person in Australia, has launched an audacious bid to buy the country’s biggest electricity company – and shut its coal-fired power plants. It is a bold approach to decarbonisation, but can he pull it off?

Australia currently produces the highest carbon emissions per capita in the world from burning coal for power generation. The country’s government is highly attached to fossil fuels. Not long before becoming the current prime minister, Scott Morrison brought a lump of coal to parliament and announced: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid, don’t be scared, it won’t hurt you.”

Cannon-Brookes, co-founder of software giant Atlassian, has been a vocal critic of the government’s climate inaction. Now, he is using his net worth of A$20 billion to try to take matters into his own hands.

On 19 February, he made an A$8 billion bid in partnership with Canadian asset management firm Brookfield to buy electricity company AGL, which owns three of Australia’s 16 coal plants. If successful, they will spend another A$20 billion replacing these coal plants with renewable assets like solar, wind and battery infrastructure by 2030.

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