Australia has long been a net exporter of energy, with predominantly coal and gas equaling to around two-thirds of production. As its energy sector transitions to a low-carbon future, however, Australia seeks to also transform its exports and become a renewable energy export superpower.
At a policy level, a major statement of intent was made in July, when the Government announced it will fast-track an ambitious US$16b 10GW/30GWh solar/battery project that will send 24-hour renewable electricity to Singapore via a 4,500km cable. Granted “major project status” by the Government, developer Sun Cable’s Australia-ASEAN Power Link is to be built by the end of 2027.
Although yet to win support from Singapore’s Government, the project would consist of the world’s largest solar array, biggest battery and longest power cable, providing 3GW of dispatchable electricity. About 3,700km of the high-voltage, direct-current cable would be under the sea and would connect Australia to the planned 16-nation ASEAN power grid, while also supplying power domestically to Darwin. Ambitious expansion plans could result in connections being established from India to New Zealand.
Meanwhile, another mega-project – the 15GW Asian Renewable Energy Hub, backed by Macquarie Bank and energy groups Vestas, CWP Energy and InterContinental Energy – is equally ambitious. With a US$20b price tag, it will be the world’s largest wind-solar hybrid project, with the vast amounts of renewable energy generated used to produce green hydrogen and ammonia for export to Asian markets. The hub also plans to sell about 3GW to iron-ore mines and liquefied natural gas facilities in Western Australia. Construction will not start until 2026, with the first exports expected one or two years later.
Policymakers have already pledged their support, with the Government agreeing to co-fund an AU$500m (US$352m) pilot project in Victoria to generate “blue” hydrogen from coal and store the emissions produced in an undersea basin. The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Energy Council has estimated the potential value of the nation’s hydrogen export industry could reach AU$26b (US$18b) by 2050, transforming the nation into a major force in renewable energy.
The two mega-projects would elevate Australia to a renewable energy export superpower, but it must still be proven to investors that the projects are profitable and there is the know-how to conquer the complex technical challenges posed.