While Simon Holmes a Court has enjoyed stunning political success in getting so-called teal independentents into parliament, it has not been as sunny for one of his solar power ventures, which has been forced to sack a quarter of its staff.
5B Solar, which makes rapidly deployed ground mount solar panels, blamed supply chain and logistics disruptions for having to let go of just under 50 staff.
Company founder Chris McGrath told the Australian Financial Review that a ‘perfect storm’ created by Covid-19 and other factors, including the war in Ukraine, had led to a shortage of materials, transport delays and a general blow-out in costs and timing .
Funding is also proving more difficult to acquire despite the company raising $ 30milllion from investors.
‘Everything is clogged, jammed, delayed and more expensive,’ Mr McGrath said.
Simon Holmes a Court’s winning streak in funding the so-called teal independents into parliament hasn’t translated to one of his start-up solar energy investments
Mr McGrath said the Australian start-up, which along with Mr Holmes à Court counts former prime minister and fellow clean energy enthusiast Malcolm Turnbull among its backers, had to fire the staff because it had anticipated being bigger at this point.
The company, which started in 2013, employs people in five countries and has 59 projects worldwide with some major Australian clients in SA Water and the AES Corporation.
5B Solar has nominated a number of challenging conditions, such as supply chain problems and cost blowouts, facing their industry for having to shed nearly 50 staff
Mr McGrath said 5B was looking to automate more production and predicted it would be in a period of consolidation for some years.
‘The solar industry is a $ 10 trillion to $ 20 trillion market. It’s not easy for a young business to say that and mean it. It’s a huge space, but the challenges to get there are also significant, ‘he said.
‘But fundamentally, to save ourselves from extinction we need to build more solar, wind and battery technology than ever before, and that will win out against these macroeconomic factors.’
Even if his business ventures are struggling, Mr Holmes a Court demonstrated his ability to pick political winners by financing the climate activist teal independent, who stunningly claimed a number of formerly safe Liberal seats at the last election.
Despite being a mainly behind-the-scenes fundraiser, Mr Holmes a Court gained some uncomfortable limelight when a video emerged of him in confrontation with Liberal Senator Jane Hume and then federal treasurer Josh Frydenberg.
Mr Holmes a Court later apologized for confronting Ms Hume but did not drop his accusation that she was ‘spreading lies’ about him.
Female Liberal Senator Jane Hume tries to end her electoral confrontation with Mr Holmes a Court, which was filmed by former treasurer Josh Frydenberg
After his confrontation with Ms Hume, Mr Holmes a Court turned to Mr Frydenberg, who was behind the camera, and had another testy exchange leading to a silent stand-off
While canvassing for teal independent Monique Ryan, who eventually won Mr Frydenberg’s Melbourne seat of Kooyong, Mr Holmes a Court appeared to accost a Ms Hume in an incident filmed by Mr Frydenberg.
‘Just leave me alone, Simon. Please leave me alone, ‘Ms Hume said, as Mr Holmes a Court disputed her claim he was suing her for defamation.
‘You are the son of Australia’s first billionaire, you are suing me for defamation. Please leave me alone, leave me alone, ‘Ms Hume says.
Mr Holmes a Court then fronted Mr Frydenberg behind the camera and asked if he agreed with Ms Hume’s ‘lies’ before a short silent stand-off started between the pair.
Who is Simon Holmes in Court?
Simon Holmes à Court is a senior advisor to the Climate and Energy College at Melbourne University and director of the Smart Energy Council.
He was the founding chairman of Australia’s first community-owned wind farm, Hepburn Wind, and is one of four children of Robert Holmes à Court and his wife Janet.
Robert was born in Johannesburg in 1937 and moved to Perth to study law in 1961.
After working as a barrister and solicitor, he built a business empire made up of companies in the resources, transport, media and beverage industries.
He died of a heart attack aged 53 in 1990, leaving his fortune to wife Janet and his children.
Robert’s eldest son Peter Holmes à Court is a multimillionaire entrepreneur who once owned the South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL team with Russell Crowe.
Mr Holmes a Court, who is the son of Australia’s first billionaire Robert Holmes a Court, set up a fundraising body called Climate 200 which provided millions to the teal candidates and saw them snatch a number of formerly blue ribbon Liberal seats.