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Australian Firm Proposes 4,200km Submarine Cable to Send Solar to Singapore

published: 2022-05-23 9:30

Responding to the global green energy investment trend, many companies or countries have proposed ambitious plans. As an energy importer, Singapore faces global green energy requirements and plans to import 4 GW of renewable energy by 2035, so it has become the object of a proposal. Australian company Sun Cable proposes a plan to build a 4,200-kilometer long transmission submarine cable from Australia's Northern Territory, through the Lesser Sunda Islands, into the Java Sea and then through the Gaspar Strait, north to Singapore.

As much as 95% of Singapore’s electricity comes from gas-fired power generation and the natural gas is completely imported, making Singapore one of the countries with the lowest degree of energy independence in the world. The price of liquefied natural gas fluctuates violently with the changes in geopolitics, which has become a major threat to Singapore’s energy economic stability.  All gas-fired power generation also brings hidden worries to Singapore's industry in the future green energy era, that is, if customers require a zero-carbon supply chain, Singapore's industry will be hard pressed when looking for green power. 

Although Singapore itself is not short of electricity, in order to maintain energy security, the total power generation capacity planned by Singapore is almost twice the electricity demand. However, it is quite dangerous to put all their eggs in the natural gas basket. The recent surge in natural gas prices has caused chaos in Singapore’s electricity market. Although there is no shortage of electricity, there is a shortage of green electricity, so a target of 4 GW of imported green energy is proposed.

The closest country to Singapore is also the most likely energy import target: Malaysia, but in order to achieve its own carbon reduction goals, Malaysia is forbidden to export green electricity to Singapore, and can only export non-renewable energy electricity.

So the idea of solar cables came into being. Australia's Northern Territory has a large dry area with clear skies. Building a large-scale solar farm and then laying down a submarine cable to transmit electricity to Singapore, which needs green electricity, should be a good business. At least that is what investors think. Investors include Australian mining tycoon and former Fortescue Metals Group chief executive Andrew Forrest and Australian software company Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes.

This plan is becoming more and more ambitious. Originally planned as a 14 GW solar farm, the project will expand to 17~20 GW. The original 30 million kWh of electricity storage has been increased to 36 million to 42 million kWh and total investment has also increased from 22 billion Australian dollars to 30 billion Australian dollars. The solar farm will be 12,000 hectares in size and the submarine cable will be 4,200 kilometers long. If this plan is realized, it will become the world's largest green energy export plan, far exceeding Singapore's green energy import target, providing 15% of Singapore's electricity in one go, and reducing Singapore's carbon emissions by 8.6 million tons per year.

The submarine solar cable plan was approved by the Indonesian government to pass  through its seas in 2021. In exchange, the solar cable will invest 2.5 billion US dollars in Indonesia, including equipment such as transformers, switchgear, land cables, as well as the possibility of building a battery factory to supply energy storage equipment. Whether the entire plan will be successful depends on the client's intention in Singaporel. Although Malaysia prohibits the export of green electricity, Singapore can still import green electricity from other nearby countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, and Laos. Indonesia's Riau Islands have plans to develop 3.5 GW of solar energy, which is only 270 kilometers away from Singapore. Laos' hydropower is also an alternative green power source for Singapore.

Sun Cable is still full of confidence in this plan, saying that the demand for green electricity in Singapore's future green energy transformation should not be underestimated. In addition, the long-term natural gas contracts between Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia have expired, and the cost of obtaining natural gas may jump significantly. In terms of safety, direct power transmission is more reliable than shipping LNG.

The theory may be good but whether this plan can come true ultimately depends on whether Sun Cable can find enough customers in Singapore to buy green electricity. In business, business is everything.

(Image: Sun Cable)

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