$20b plan to supply solar power from Australia to Singapore

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has previously acknowledged the plan sounds "insane", but is building a track record for backing ambitious renewable energy projects.
Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has previously acknowledged the plan sounds "insane", but is building a track record for backing ambitious renewable energy projects.PHOTO: AFP

Sun Cable leading mega project, with Aussie duo investing millions of dollars

MELBOURNE • Two Australian billionaires have invested tens of millions of dollars to jump-start a mega project to supply solar power from northern Australia to Singapore via the world's longest subsea highvoltage cable, the project's boss said yesterday.

Singapore's Sun Cable, which is leading the roughly A$22 billion (S$20.4 billion) project, raised the money from the private family fund of Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and mining magnate Andrew Forrest's private company Squadron Energy.

In response to queries from The Straits Times, the Energy Market Authority (EMA), Singapore's electricity industry regulator, said: ''We have had meetings with Sun Cable.''

However, it could not comment further due to commercial sensitivities.

The EMA spokesman said: ''Singapore is open to new energy options that provide energy security and price competitiveness while meeting climate change commitments.''

Sun Cable plans to build a 10-gigawatt solar farm in Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory, a 22-gigawatt hour battery storage facility and a 4,500km transmission network to Singapore. All three elements would be the biggest of their kind in the world.

The Australia-Singapore Power Link will supply a fifth of Singapore's power needs, helping to ease its dependence on imported liquefied natural gas, according to Sun Cable's website.

When contacted by ST, Singapore utility SP Group declined comment.

Sun Cable chief executive David Griffin said the funds injected by Mr Cannon-Brookes and Mr Forrest, which amounted to less than A$50 million, would cover the costs of designing the project and obtaining regulatory and environmental approvals, ahead of seeking full financing. Sun Cable hopes to secure financing for the whole project by late 2023, he added.

Mr Cannon-Brookes said in a statement released by Sun Cable: ''This is a massively exciting project with world-changing potential. We have the resources, the ingenuity and the drive to get it done. We just have to put it all together.''

He has previously acknowledged that the plan sounds ''insane'', but he is building a track record for backing ambitious renewable energy projects.

In 2016, he challenged Tesla chief executive Elon Musk via Twitter to build the world's biggest battery in 100 days in Australia to help prevent blackouts. The bet was dismissed as outrageous at the time, but Tesla built the battery on time and the project has made a profit and helped stabilise the grid.

Mr Griffin said the biggest challenge for Sun Cable would be to optimise the various parts of what will be ''a very long machine''.

''It's a really complex system that we are designing. It's not just a big solar farm, a big energy storage project or a long transmission line. It all has to stitch together,'' he said.

The Northern Territory government in July gave the Australia-Singapore Power Link major project status, which helps smooth out the approval process for projects deemed significant to the jurisdiction.

REUTERS

  • Additional reporting by Sue-Ann Tan
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2019, with the headline '$20b plan to supply solar power from Australia to S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe