This op-ed is part of AASYP’s Digital Dialogues 2021, which is a programme that aims to provide a platform and forum for future leaders from across the region to contribute to the policymaking and diplomacy sphere by engaging in issues relating to Gender and Diversity, Green Recovery, and Emerging Economies.
How Australia can transition from one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel exporters, to the renewable energy exporting superpower of the Indo-Pacific.
The Australia-Asia Power Link, also known as the Australia-ASEAN Power Link or AAPowerLink, is an ambitious plan aimed at making Australia a world leader in intercontinental electricity transmission. Created by the company Sun Cable, and scheduled to be completed by the end of this decade, the project seeks to take advantage of Australia’s abundance of land mass and solar power through building the world’s largest solar farm and battery in the Northern Territory, to then transmit solar power via a direct current cable more than 4,000km to Southeast Asian nations such as Singapore and Indonesia. It represents the world’s first intercontinental power grid. Recognising the promise of this plan, it has been given ‘Major Project Status’ by both the Northern Territory Government and the Australian Government, and has been added to the ‘Priority List’ of Infrastructure Australia.
The project represents an ambitious plan to mitigate anthropogenic climate change through facilitating the use of renewable energy. And there is no better time than now, with demand for clean energy rising rapidly. Taking advantage of Australia’s solar resources, which is the highest per capita worldwide, the project could provide Asian nations with clean energy in high volumes. It will also allow Australia to transition from currently the world’s largest coal exporter and second largest liquified natural gas exporter, to a clean energy export superpower. As the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Michael Gunner has stated: “This project will put the NT on the international map when it comes to renewables,” adding that the project “will transform the Territory into a renewable energy powerhouse.”
The link would be of great benefit to ASEAN nations, among whom solar energy is not attainable to nearly the same degree as Australia. Notably, Singapore is currently seeking to reduce its overwhelming reliance on natural gas for its electricity supply. The AAPowerLink can help this transition, as when completed it will be capable of providing up to 20 per cent of the total electricity needs of Singapore, which is the equivalent of powering three million homes a year. This would represent a reduction of Singapore’s emissions by six million tonnes annually, the equivalent of removing around two million cars from the road. In addition, it is estimated to abate more than 10 per cent of Northern Territory’s total emissions.
Such a project also provides significant economic opportunity for Australia in the post-COVID-19 recovery period. Through supplying clean energy at competitively priced rates, it allows Australia to expand its industry whilst also reducing our own emissions in line with our Paris and Glasgow agreement obligations. Further, it will create thousands of jobs for the local community, in construction and operation, and significant opportunities for local suppliers and business. More than 12,000 indirect jobs will also be established across Australia and in Southeast Asia, primarily Singapore and Indonesia. At a vital time of recovery, it will also inject $8 billion into Australia’s economy and generate more than $2 billion through exports per annum for the foreseeable future.
The ambition and potential of the AAPowerLink has attracted significant private investment. Two of Australia’s richest individuals, Andrew Forrest and Mike Cannon-Brookes, have taken on part-ownership of the company Sun Cable and have supported the financing of this project. Other prominent companies such as 5B, iSwitch, Bechtel and Hatch have already begun collaborating with Sun Cable on this project, and in the project’s capital raising period to date, tens of millions of dollars have been invested. The Indonesian Government has also expressed its full support for the project.
With capital and finance raising to close by 2023 and construction to be completed by the end of the decade, the project presents a world leading solution to climate change in the ASEAN region. It also represents a big, bold new chapter in sourcing renewable energy—through intercontinental transport. Australia and ASEAN nations should work closely in forwarding this plan to allow for an effective and mutually beneficial regional response to climate change.
This article was written by Ziyan Tejani and reviewed by the AASYP Publications Team.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this op-ed are solely those of the writer and in no way represent nor reflect the position of AASYP and members of the AASYP Publications Team. The AASYP Horizons Blog provides a platform for the free expression of opinions and intellectual discourse.