Australian tech billionaire and investor activist Mike Cannon-Brookes‘ family fund, Grok Ventures, is among the initial investors in Canberra-based Infradebt’s Energy Transition Fund (ETF). According to Infradebt, the ETF will provide “senior debt finance” for six to eight utility-scale battery projects with a total capacity of 1.5 GW to 2 GW over coming years.
The ETF’s first two investments consist of loans to the 100 MW/200 MWh Neon Capital Battery outside Canberra and the 50 MW/100 MWh Genex Bouldercombe BESS southwest of Rockhampton in Queensland. For the latter project the ETF is the sole financer, though both projects are expected to begin operations in 2023.
Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures wasn’t the only investor in the ETF’s first round, with more funds coming from JANA Diversified Infrastructure Trust and others.
Infradebt CEO Alexander Austin described energy storage, and grid-scale batteries in particular, as “a key element to facilitating the orderly and rapid decarbonisation of the grid. Decarbonisation requires the rapid buildout of wind and solar and dispatchable grid-scale storage to allow the matching of supply and demand on a 24 x 7 x 365 (sic) basis.”
Grok Ventures CEO Jeremy Kwong-Law noted that accelerating Australia’s decarbonisation efforts was key its investment. “Since investing in Infradebt Ethical Fund back in 2017, we’ve closely observed Infradebt identifying gaps in the capital stack to accelerate Australia’s decarbonisation efforts, whilst providing solid risk adjusted returns,” said Kwong-Law. “We believe ETF will be another fund to deliver returns and accelerate decarbonisation of our grid.”
Infradebt has financed 43 projects since its 2014 launch.
In 2022, Cannon-Brookes led a protracted take over attempt of Australia’s biggest gen-tailer, AGL. Though Cannon-Brookes’ attempts were ultimately stifled, he did manage to block the company’s demerger after Grok Ventures became AGL’s biggest shareholder.
According to the Australian Financial Review, the ETF could total as much as $1 billion (USD 673 million), though only the first two aforementioned batteries are finalised.
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