‘Follow the Money’: Hard-Hitting Danish Drama Documents Wind Industry Corruption, Australian Sequel Promised
STT has just gorged on two episodes of what is presented as well crafted drama, but which to STT followers will play out like a hard-hitting documentary.
Australia’s SBS started screening ‘Follow the Money’ a couple of weeks ago, the plot-line for Episode 1 is described as follows:
Mads, a police detective, is called out to investigate a body washed ashore near a wind farm. At first, it merely looks like an industrial accident, but the case implicates the upper echelons of Energreen – one of Denmark’s most successful and leading energy companies. The CEO is charismatic Sander, and a young lawyer, Claudia, is working hard to advance in the company. Nicky, a former car thief and mechanic, has put his life of crime behind him for his girlfriend’s sake, but his new colleague Bimse tempts Nicky with a chance to make a quick buck.
From the creators of Borgen, Follow the Money is as slick as any of the recent crop of Nordic Noir crime dramas. While the wind-cult Weekly,The Guardian gave it a critical pasting when the BBC aired it in Britain back in March (probably something to do with it being just a tad inconsistent with green-left groupthink) – STT gives it five stars.
Indeed, Follow the Money comes with an STT consumer warning: “this TV series is more addictive than crack cocaine”.
For our Australian followers, Follow the Money screens on Thursday nights at 9:30pm. For our many international followers, the series is available at SBS On Demand, which will also allow our local followers to catch up on the first two episodes: for episode one click here and episode two here. You can view it on a PC, Smart TV or iPad etc.
The site adds a new episode after it goes to air, so return to SBS On Demand to Follow the Money. For a taste, here’s the trailer:
Without giving too much away, the company at the centre of the story, Energreen, is filled with cocksure and arrogant types, of the kind that you might find swanning around with wind power outfits like, Infigen andPacific Hydro.
Keep an eye out for one character who STT is certain was modelled on Vesta’s Australian pinup boy, Ken McAlpine (the physical resemblance to Ken is good, but the character’s similarly channelled arrogance and narcissism is uncanny).
The lone wolf detective, Mads finds roadblocks being thrown up at every turn by his superior officers, which smack of wind industry corruption and interference.
Of course Denmark, the birthplace of Vestas, is no stranger to wind industry sleaze, corruption and fraud.
Vestas and its slick financial dealings have, no doubt, provided Follow the Money’s scriptwriters with plenty of material to work with.
The plot-line reads a whole lot like the trouble that Vesta’s Chief Financial Officer, Henrik Nørremark and a band of its executives found themselves in back in 2013, having engaged in a run of fraudulent transactions that cost the company around 140 million kroner.
Just like Follow the Money, the boys from Vestas found themselves under police scrutiny; and, thereafter, the company did everything it could to quarantine itself from a PR nightmare – cutting the former corporate heroes loose and leaving them for dead (see our post here).
Now, turning closer to home let’s take a sneak peek at Australia’s own Follow the Money documentary sequel.
The Pilot for the Series kicks off in Australia’s Federal Parliament during Senate Estimates held on 5 May 2016 (the last session of play before Parliament was dissolved ready for an election in July).
WA Liberal Senator, Chris Back starts off with a little probing of the Clean Energy Regulator, Chloe Munro (keep a lookout for her doppelgänger in the Danish version of Follow the Money) on the topic of around $100 million worth of Renewable Energy Certificates pocketed by Babcock and Brown (aka Infigen or Energreen), which were paid out based on a signature that the CER has, despite some effort, been unable to verify. Here’s the Script for ‘Follow the Money, Downunder’, Scene 1 (taken from Hansard):
Senator BACK: Thanks Ms Munro and thank you for the information before lunch, it was very interesting. Again, I appreciate you correcting the answer—217, I think it was. At the end of stage 1 of your explanation you mentioned that on July 7 2004 Babcock and Brown lodged a new application for registry to accredit a power station showing Lake Bonney Wind Farm Pty Ltd as the applicant.
What concerned me, and I am asking for your response, is that you said it is not clear who signed the declaration on behalf of the company on that form; the signature is illegible. That is of enormous concern to me. The CER would have issued certificates to that organisation since then, probably of values—of what?—of $100 million?
Ms C Munro: I could not estimate that on the run.
Senator BACK: My guestimate is somewhere between $70 million and $160 million, based on a document the signature on which was not able to be verified. What action can be taken?
Ms C Munro: Perhaps to set your mind at rest with respect to that: first of all we were retrieving records from our predecessor organisation, the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator, so I cannot speak about the precise processes they would have followed at the time. But I think they would have been in a position to verify that the signature was the signature of somebody they had probably been dealing with, because usually there is an exchange of correspondence and so on before the actual accreditation. I think the fact that at this stage we cannot make out the signature does not mean to say that it was unknown to them.
To be honest, my own signature, on its own, is not always decipherable. What I think was missing was that the block where the person’s name was written separately had not been filled in. But taken with the other information that would have been there at the time, I do not think it suggests an impropriety in that regard.
Going to the question that you asked before, the point is that the legal person is the ‘entity’. This person is an authorised officer. Clearly, it is important to verify that the signature is from the authorised officer. But at this stage I do not think that we have any reason to believe there was a problem in that regard.
Senator BACK: Sure. Can I have an assurance then that as a result of the Renewable Energy Regulations regulation 3L coming into effect in December 2012 that an omission of that nature would not be repeated?
Ms C Munro: No. I think that generally we have tightened up a lot of our standing operating procedures. I think that in terms of verifying who signatories are and that the authorised officers are the appropriate people across all our schemes, we probably have some more consistent processes there.
Senator BACK: Thank you. I will just go back to question 222 from the previous estimates. I asked you about the membership of the Clean Energy Council. Are you able to give the committee an assurance—if not now, then take it on notice—that members of the board, when there has been a matter involving an organisation with which they have an association, have in fact excluded themselves from any decisions regarding that particular entity? I would imagine that, with good governance, the board minutes would indicate that a person has excluded themselves from the debate.
Ms C Munro: I cannot give you that assurance on behalf of the Clean Energy Council, although I absolutely agree with you that that is normal governance. What I can say for background is: the Clean Energy Council board is a representative body, as many industry associations are, and board members are drawn from amongst participants in the industry. The chair revolves fairly frequently. Until recently it was Michael Fraser, who was the predecessor of the current chief executive of AGL, for example.
But I think, more significantly, the co-regulation takes place between ourselves and the Clean Energy Council is on matters that relate to the small-scale scheme—things like accreditation of installers, listing of components like panels and so on. So, those matters I think, generally, would not be decided by the council; they would be decided at the executive level. The council members are more likely to be participants in the large-scale renewable energy targets, in which the Clean Energy Council does not have a regulatory role. That is a long way of saying: I cannot advise you on how the Clean Energy Council conducts its meetings, because we are not a member of it. I think it is unlikely that there are occasions in its deliberations for the kind of conflicts that you might be apprehensive about.
Hmmm… a former wind industry exec turned government bureaucrat, brushing aside obvious conflicts of interests, deflecting enquiries about fictitious applicants for hundreds of $millions in REC Tax/Subsidy, paid to a wind power outfit that disintegrated in a $10 billion insolvency in 2009 and Phoenixed as Infigen, starts to sound very Danish Noir.
But the drama didn’t end there.
STT champion, John Madigan followed up on the story we covered back in September last year (see our posts here and here) about Pacific Hydro and Acciona presenting fabricated wind farm noise reports (claiming compliance at non-compliant wind farms – Waubra and Cape Bridgewater), allowing them to continue pocketing hundreds of $millions in RECs.
The CER is well aware that both outfits have been relying upon ‘made-to-measure’ noise reports from Marshall Day, but have steadfastly refused the act or investigate.
Now, in classic Follow the Money style, it appears that the Australian Federal Police are hot on the trail of Chloe and her gang.
Senator MADIGAN: Thank you, Chair. Last year, Ms Munro, I met with the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General to alert them to my concerns surrounding false wind farm noise reporting. As a result of that meeting I was led to believe that the Attorney-General had referred these allegations to the Australian Federal Police for formal investigation. Are you able to confirm whether the AFP has held any discussions with anyone from the office of the Clean Energy Regulator in relation to the CER-accredited Cape Bridgewater and/or Waubra wind farms?
Ms C Munro: Yes, Senator, I am able to confirm that. We were approached in February by the Australian Federal Police, who were making initial inquiries relating to the matters that you put.
They had a meeting with members of my staff in order to understand the way that our schemes worked and how those entities would be accredited.
Following that, and on our advice, they made an information request. I authorised the disclosure of information relating specifically to Cape Bridgewater, and that was done. We have not heard anything further from them, so I am not aware whether they proceeded to a formal investigation—this was their preliminary information gathering. We have had no further contact from them since then.
Senator MADIGAN: Thank you, Ms Munro.
Stay tuned for Episode Two: ‘Feds Skewer CER’