Grid expectations: Asian green power network aims to speed up switch to renewables

Australian company Sun Cable along with nine partners launched the research network. PHOTO: SUNCABLE.ENERGY

SINGAPORE - An international group of Singapore and Australian research and corporate partners on Wednesday launched a network that aims to accelerate the creation of a regional green grid, a step that could help boost green energy investment in Asia and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Australian company Sun Cable, which is working to create a huge solar power plant in Australia to send electricity to Singapore, along with nine partners launched the research network, which comes as the region is looking to boost green energy to meet rapidly growing electricity demand.

A regional grid that connects Asean, parts of East Asia, Australia, New Zealand, India and other parts of the region is vital to drive the green transition, said Mr Fraser Thompson, co-founder and chief strategy officer of Sun Cable.

He said the research partnership was meant to give efforts to create a regional grid a shot in the arm.

“The aim of the network is to support the creation of a green grid across Asia. We need a very strong research and technology focus. Its aim is basically to support the collaboration and innovation we’ll need for a green grid,” he said in an interview.

Sun Cable commissioned a White Paper – Connecting Asia: One Region, One Grid – to look at the potential of a regional grid, its benefits and the required level of support.

It estimated that achieving 15 per cent cross-border electricity trade every year in the Asia-Pacific by 2040 would create 870,000 jobs in the region. This would lead to a cut of up to 3.07 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually, translating to about 8 per cent of global CO2 emissions.

The 15 per cent would also represent an estimated 3,335 terawatt-hours of generation, equivalent to US$493 billion (S$693 billion) of electricity.

Mr Thompson said that at present, 13 per cent of electricity generated in Europe is traded among member states. In Asia, it is about 0.3 per cent.

A regional grid would help shift green energy from nations rich in renewable power, such as Laos, to others less able to generate it, such as Singapore.

Mr Thompson said there have long been discussions within Asean on developing a regional grid and some nations have created interconnectors. These developments mainly involve Thailand, Laos and Vietnam. Singapore is trialling hydropower imports from Laos via Thailand and Malaysia.

The White Paper is not meant to interfere with ongoing regional grid discussions among Asean nations, and the aim is to link up a myriad independent green energy research efforts in the region, he added.

“Our underlying vision is grid integration and cross-border electricity in Asia. And we know there’s no way we’re going to get there unless we support this different research innovation,” he said.

The partners and collaborators of the Asian Green Grid Network include Surbana Jurong, A*Star, the National University of Singapore Faculty of Science, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Institute of Technology, University of New South Wales, University of Adelaide, James Cook University and Charles Darwin University.

The network aims to promote education and green grid development, such as high-voltage direct current transmission lines and policy best practices. It will also work to bring together leading research institutions, industry, and businesses to share knowledge and innovation, and conduct research and development activities with partners.

It is organised around three thematic areas of research: innovation for generation, transmission innovation, and grid management and storage.

Mr Thompson said the benefits for major project developers could be large. “If we can remove the roadblocks around policy and technology innovation, then the Asia-Pacific opportunity suddenly opens up. That’s great for us because then we can compete in a much larger pond for projects rather than focusing on a much smaller pond.”

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