Renewables, battle of the billionaires

Singapore lit up at night

Previously, Edge has discussed the electricity markets’ move away from coal and gas to renewable energy and firming technologies. Last week it was announced that the Australia-Asia PowerLink Project (AAPP) better known as Sun Cable had gone into voluntary administration. AAPP was planned to be the world’s biggest solar and battery storage project.

Sun Cable was backed by some of the largest renewable energy developers in Australia, namely Mike Cannon-Brookes from Grok Ventures and Squadron Energy’s Andrew Forrest.

It appears from the outside the decision to wind up the company was due to a lack of alignment of the companies’ objectives by the shareholders but is there more to the story.

Sun Cable was to provide renewable energy generated in Australia and transport it via a 4,200km underseas cable to Singapore. Powering the project would be a huge solar farm near Elliott in the Northern Territory. The 20GW Elliott solar farm would be firmed with a 42GWh battery.

The first part of the Sun Cable project was planned to start construction next year, resulting in 800MW of renewable energy flowing into Darwin by 2027. Currently Darwin has a maximum demand of around 250MW so either the generation project will need to be resized or the solar farm will need to be constrained until it is able to export. With several solar projects already built in the Northern Territory but not approved for connection, the NT market may become very constrained as a result of the single line transmission between Katherine and Darwin.

Late in 2022, Sun Cable announced it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indonesian government to unlock more than $150B in “green industry” growth in the region. The MoU has a broad plan to build key industries to improve Indonesia’s GDP. These industries include mining, energy, transport, food, agriculture and IT infrastructure, all an interest to mining and IT entrepreneurs.

With Indonesia already approving a sub sea survey permit it is likely the sub sea power cable could reach Indonesian shores and provide cheap renewable electricity to the region to assist in its growth.

Following the announcement of Sun Cable going into administration the federal government remains positive on the future prospect of Sun Cable. Are two billionaires too much for a business like this? Will one of them retain control of the company?

Feedback from Minister Bowen suggests following discussions with senior individuals at SunCable, there are no plans to stop moving forward with the project. Minister Bowen said

“It’s a change of approach and corporate structure, but of course in that regard that is entirely a matter for them”

Following a restructuring process, it looks like AAPP will still go ahead but most likely led by only on billionaire.