Tycoon says Singapore wants green fuel, not giant cable

Sun Cable confirmed in October it had received letters of intent from potential customers for the supply of about 2.5 gigawatts PHOTO: SUNCABLE ENERGY

SYDNEY - Billionaire Andrew Forrest sees an opportunity to export green fuels to Singapore after the collapse of a A$30 billion (S$27.78 billion) project to supply clean electricity from Australia.

Developer Sun Cable entered voluntary administration last week amid disputes between investors including Mr Forrest and Atlassian Corp co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes over the viability of sending solar power via a 4,200-kilometre cable from Australia’s Northern Territory to the city state. 

Those plans, which had already drawn industry scepticism, are now unviable, with costs spiralling and uncertainty over demand, Mr Forrest said in an interview in Davos.

Authorities and industries in Singapore say, “We don’t know why you want to send us all these electrons, when what we’ve asked the world for - and no one’s giving us - is molecules,” Mr Forrest said on Monday.

“We want green hydrogen, we want green, synthetic methane, we want green ammonia.”

Singapore is among major global shipping hubs that are responding to decarbonisation with ambitions to boost trade in fossil fuel alternatives, including biofuels and hydrogen.

The nation’s government forecasts hydrogen could meet up to half of its power needs by 2050.

The city state’s Energy Market Authority declined to comment.

Authorities have previously said the nation has had more than 20 proposals for clean electricity supply, including from neighboring Indonesia and Malaysia, and is on track to meet a target of importing four gigawatts by 2035.

Mr Cannon-Brookes has insisted that electricity exports to Singapore are economic and in demand.

Sun Cable confirmed in October it had received letters of intent from potential customers for the supply of about 2.5 gigawatts, compared to planned capacity of around 1.75 gigawatts, the tech billionaire’s Grok family office said in a statement.

“Prospective bidders will have the opportunity to make up their own minds when they have access to the facts via the data room during the sale process,” Grok said.

Mr Forrest is aiming to develop his Fortescue Future Industries, an arm of iron ore exporter Fortescue Metals Group Ltd., into one of the world’s top exporters of green hydrogen, targeting shipments of 15 million tonnes by 2030. 

The billionaire’s Squadron Energy unit - which holds about a 25 per cent stake in Sun Cable - is considering a potential offer for the company and would require the exit of the existing leadership team, a person familiar with the details said last week. 

“We lost faith in the management and chairman,” Mr Forrest said in the interview.

“They’re a little startup that has lavish offices and are spending money like there’s no tomorrow, and the management team plus board are really inexperienced.” 

Sun Cable declined to comment.

Administrator FTI Consulting said it is seeking expressions of interest in the recapitalisation or sale of the business. BLOOMBERG

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.