Fri, Jul 19, 2019 - Page 9 News List

The US$20bn plan to power Singapore
with Australian solar energy

An ambitious export plan could generate billions and make Australia the center of low-cost energy in a future zero-carbon world

By Adam Morton  /  The Guardian

Illustration: Mountain People

The desert outside Tennant Creek, deep in Australia’s Northern Territory, is not the most obvious place to build and transmit Singapore’s future electricity supply. Although few in the southern states have yet to take notice, a group of Australian developers are betting that will change.

If they are right, it could have far-reaching consequences for Australia’s energy industry and what the nation sells to the world.

Known as Sun Cable, it promises to be the world’s largest solar farm. If developed as planned, an array of panels with a capacity of 10 gigawatts (GW) would be spread across 15,000 hectares and be backed by battery storage to ensure it can supply power around the clock.

Overhead transmission lines would send electricity to Darwin and plug into the Northern Territory grid, but the bulk would be exported via a high-voltage direct-current submarine cable snaking through the Indonesian archipelago to Singapore.

The developers have said it that would be able to provide one-fifth of the city-state’s electricity needs, replacing its increasingly expensive gas-fired power.

After 18 months in development, A$20 billion (US$14.1 billion) Sun Cable had a quiet coming out party in the Top End three weeks ago at a series of events held to highlight the Northern Territory’s solar potential. The idea has been embraced by the territory’s government and attracted the attention of software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm.

The Northern Territory plan follows a similarly ambitious proposal for the Pilbara, where another group of developers are working on an even bigger wind and solar hybrid plant to power local industry and develop a green hydrogen manufacturing hub.

Project developer Andrew Dickson on Friday last week announced that the scale of the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub had grown by more than a third, from 11GW to 15GW.

“To our knowledge, it’s the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world,” he said.

These developments are still at relatively early stages of planning.

Both teams said that it would be four years before they lock in finance, with production scheduled to start mid-to-late next decade.

However, renewable energy watchers are cautiously optimistic that they could help spark a new way of thinking about Australia’s energy exports — one that better aligns with the nation’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, rather than broadening a fossil fuel trade at odds with it.

Opponents to Australia taking significant action on the climate crisis often point out that the nation is responsible for about 1.4 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, placing it about 15th on a table of carbon-polluting nations.

A recent report by science and policy institute Climate Analytics makes the case that this underplays Australia’s contribution, which increases by 5 percent if fossil fuel exports are included.

The latter figure is expected to increase over the next decade. Australia is the world’s biggest exporter of coal and rivals Qatar as the leader in selling liquefied natural gas (LNG).

There is bipartisan support for a significant expansion of both industries, although government economists anticipate export earnings from coal would fall.

Ross Garnaut , former adviser to Labor governments who is now a professor of economics at the University of Melbourne and chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, makes the case that there is another way ahead.

This story has been viewed 2083 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top