Infrastructure Australia has provided its endorsement for the economic benefits of the Australia-Asia PowerLink (AAPowerLink), which would export solar power from the Australian outback to Singapore via a submarine transmission link, ensuring the project can advance to stage 3 ‘investment-ready’ status on its priority list, opening the door for government funding.
Singapore-based Sun Cable is seeking to develop a giant solar PV and battery energy storage complex on a 12,000-hectare site in the Northern Territory’s (NT) Barkly region. The project includes a 17-20 GW solar farm and between 36 GWh and 42 GWh of energy storage.
Once operational, AAPowerLink will supply power to Darwin and to Singapore via a 4,200-kilometre transmission network, including a 750km overhead transmission line from the solar farm to Darwin and a 3,800km submarine cable from Darwin to Singapore. The project is expected to generate enough renewable electricity to power more than 3 million homes a year.
The project is expected to cost more than $30 billion, and Sun Cable and its advisor PwC said it is likely to deliver investment of more than $8 billion to Australia and generate export revenue of $2 billion a year from 2028.
“The Australia-Asia PowerLink will be transformative for the country on multiple fronts,” PwC Australia chief executive officer Tom Seymour said. “This $30+ billion project is forecast to deliver a $24 billion boost to GDP over its lifetime, generating 1,100 jobs on average each year, supercharging the economic development of regional and Northern Australia.”
After completing its own assessment of the economic impact of the project, Infrastructure Australia, which first added AAPowerLink to its Infrastructure Priority Initiative List in 2021, provided its endorsement, recommending the project for commonwealth investment.
Infrastructure Australia acknowledged that delivering AAPowerLink “will undoubtedly be challenging but not insurmountable”, adding the project would provide an uplift in economic activity from spin-off industries to support the proposal’s construction and operation, as well potentially catalysing new industry investment to take advantage of lower energy costs.
The advisory body said the developers had produced a strong business case and were continuing to develop the project, including by securing environmental approvals, commercial agreements to underpin demand and final funding arrangements.
“Today’s announcement by Infrastructure Australia affirms that the AAPowerLink is economically viable and will deliver significant benefits for Australia and our region,” Sun Cable founder and CEO David Griffin said. “The AAPowerLink will enable a stronger economy for the long term through contracts, wages and economic diversification.
“It will spur enhanced capacity and skills in the construction and technology sectors as a result of jobs and training over the lifetime of the project, and pave the way for new green industries to be established, and to thrive.”
The project has already secured key approvals with the Australian government awarding it Major Project Status while the Indonesian government has approved the submarine transmission cable route.
Sun Cable hopes to reach financial close by the start of 2024 with construction to start in the same year. The first electricity is expected to be supplied to Darwin in 2027 with the project to be fully operational by 2029.
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