Happy news for the Australian rooftop solar industry this week, with confirmation that one of the sector’s oldest and most successful companies has been pulled out of administration and given a new start under management ownership.
Autonomous Energy confirmed on LinkedIn late on Thursday that creditors had approved a management buyout of the company, six weeks after it was dragged into the legal and financial drama centred around Sydney businessman Bill Papas and his Forum Group of Companies.
The buyout was financed by the company’s management group, including non-executive director Daniel Wright, CEO Matthew Linney, chief financial officer Simon Mason, technical solutions manager Ying Xu, engineering manager Sam Chaffey and accounts manager Jodie Fox. It was was also backed by private investor John Rakic, who is owner and managing director of Trafalgar Group.
In a statement on LinkedIn, the company welcomed the “great outcome” for the Autonomous Energy business and its 28 staff as it gets back to what it does best, including some of Australia’s biggest yet commercial solar and storage projects.
“We could not have got through these challenging weeks without the amazing support from our customers and partners as well as our remarkable team culture driven by likeminded, committed and purpose driven people. We can’t thank you enough,” the statement said.
“We look forward to continuing the company and delivering high quality customer outcomes for many years to come.”
Autonomous Energy, which was founded in 2003 and has delivered some of Australia’s largest commercial solar and battery projects to date, in June became one of 24 companies owned by Bill Papas and his Forum Group of Companies to placed under administration.
The solar, storage and microgrid specialist was bought by Papas’ sustainable tech outfit, Iugis, in March of this year – an acquisition Papas described at the time as ideal to expand his company’s foray into energy efficiency.
But over the ensuing months, Papas – who is currently trying to fend of extradition from Greece – would become increasingly embroiled in allegations of a $400 million fraud brought by Westpac and two other banks.
In mid-June, the Federal Court ordered that Forum Financial Services be placed into liquidation, taking Autonomous Energy and other subsidiary companies along with it.
In comments on LinkedIn, Linney said that after an “intense” couple of months, he felt that Autonomous Energy was coming out the other side in a stronger position than ever.
“I’m particularly stoked that we have retained 100% of our team (the best group of people I could hope to be working with) and we’re all ready to get back to doing great projects, creating renewable energy generators and saving forward thinking companies money. We have some exciting projects coming up that we look forward to sharing as well.”
The news has been welcomed by the solar industry, as a ray of light in what has been a tough couple of years for rooftop solar instrallers – and continues to be, with all of Australia’s eastern seaboard currently in lockdown. Many of the comments on LinkedIn claimed it as a win for Autonomous, but also for the broader industry.
Among some of its more notable projects over the nearly two decades, Autonomous Energy designed and built an energy microgrid at the South Australian Produce Markets in Adelaide that allowed it to be completely self-sufficient in its energy supply.
As One Step reported, the $10.5 million 2.5MW solar PV array, coupled with 4.2MWh of Tesla battery storage and a 2.5MW onsite diesel generator – at the time the biggest commercial solar installation in the state – was expected to save market stallholders up to $5.5 million over 10 years compared to the then retail power supply offer.
AE also designed, built, operated and maintained the Sydney Markets’ 3.2MW system, rolled out across four separate phases, including 1MW of solar car park shading systems and a 2.2MW rooftop system.