Solar farm owner Toucan Energy enters administration amid Thurrock scandal

Authority lent total of £655m over four years to owner of 53 solar parks across Britain

One of the country’s largest solar farm owners has entered administration amid the fallout from a scandal that forced an Essex council leader to resign.

Administrators at Interpath Advisory have been appointed to Toucan Energy Holdings, which owns a portfolio of 53 solar parks with a combined capacity of 513 megawatts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A recent investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that Thurrock council in Essex, Toucan’s main creditor, borrowed hundreds of millions of pounds to invest in the solar farm scheme run by globetrotting financier Liam Kavanagh.

Rob Gledhill, who was leader of Thurrock council, resigned in September, with the government appointing a commissioner to manage the Conservative-run authority.

Gledhill stepped down after the council made investments that could cost taxpayers £200m. An assessment by Camdor Global Advisors, which was appointed by the council to review the portfolio, concluded the solar farms were valued at less than was needed for the authority to recoup its money.

Kavanagh’s firms received a reported £655m from Thurrock over four years to buy up the 53 sites.

The figure includes a £138m payment that reportedly never reached the scheme’s management company. Kavanagh has claimed the £138m was “properly recorded” on his company’s balance sheet and the money was not specifically allocated for investment in solar farms.

Kavanagh, who reportedly owns a fleet of supercars, has said the solar farms could not be sold in their entirety to repay council debt.

Mark Coxshall, leader of Thurrock council, said he had agreed to support the decision, taken under emergency executive powers, for Toucan to enter administration.

“This is a positive move forward in enabling Thurrock council to resolve its financial position and maximise recovery for Thurrock residents. The solar farms held by Toucan continue to generate income and as the primary creditor Thurrock council will be able to seek to recover the value of investment.

“I am confident that the decision to place Toucan into administration is a significant step to reducing our overall debt.”

A spokesperson for the Thurrock Commissioners said: “We have been working with Thurrock to help them resolve their serious and complex financial challenges and help the council take the best course of action in relation to these very complex investments.”

Interpath will now try to sell Toucan’s assets. Interpath’s Jim Tucker, David Pike and Kristina Kicks were appointed joint administrators on Friday.

Tucker said: “This is a significant portfolio of high-quality renewable generation assets which, as the UK accelerates its transition towards a green and renewable future, have an important role to play in the nation’s energy security strategy.

“The underlying solar park operations are not in administration and continue to operate as normal. Our immediate priority is to put in place the stable platform at the top of the group which will reassure stakeholders that it is business-as-usual in the underlying operations.

“Given their significant underlying cash generation, we expect considerable interest in the assets.”

Kavanagh did not comment on the decision to put the company into administration, and said he had no role in the decision or the management of the business.

He said: “I installed a new management team in June 2022 and, as far as I am aware, the underlying business has traded strongly and all interest has been paid in full and on time in accordance with the terms agreed between Thurrock Council and the company.”

He said he would “assist the administrator to achieve the best outcome for the company’s stakeholders” if approached.

• This article was amended on 12 November 2022. Following publication, we were contacted by representatives of Liam Kavanagh. They provided his for-publication comment on the matter and told us that Mr Kavanagh does not own a private jet. Amendments were made to reflect these comments.


Alex Lawson Energy correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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