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Australia fast-tracks plan to send solar power to Singapore

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Australia granted "major project status" to an ambitious A$22 billion (S$21.73 billion) plan to export power from a giant solar farm in the country's north to South-east Asia via undersea cable.

[SYDNEY] Australia granted "major project status" to an ambitious A$22 billion (S$21.73 billion) plan to export power from a giant solar farm in the country's north to South-east Asia via undersea cable.

The status recognises the "strategic significance" of the project, which is expected to inject billions of dollars into the economy and create thousands of jobs, said Angus Taylor, minister for energy and emissions reduction, in a statement Wednesday.

The Australia-Asean Power Link envisions connecting the world's largest solar farm and battery system in Australia's Northern Territory to Singapore and Indonesia via a 3,700 kilometre undersea cable.

Similar proposals for long-haul, transnational power shipments have been pursued in other regions, including from North Africa to Europe or from Mongolia to Japan and South Korea.

The high-profile boost by the Australian government contrasts with the relatively muted interest from Singapore, which is expected to be its main customer.

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A spokesperson for the city-state's Energy Market Authority said it has had meetings with the project's developer, Sun Cable Pty Ltd, but can't comment further due to commercial sensitivities.

"Singapore is exploring ways to tap on regional power grids for cleaner energy and to overcome land constraints," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "However, we will need to balance this with potentially higher electricity costs and higher energy security risk."

Sun Cable says the project can supply a fifth of Singapore's power needs, helping to reduce the city-state's reliance on natural gas imports.

The project, which is backed by Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes and Fortescue Metals' founder Andrew Forrest, plans to start marine survey work from August. The company is targeting commercial operations to begin in 2027.

The major project status will provide the Sun Cable project with government support that includes a single entry point for national approvals and assistance with state and territory approvals.

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