Sun Cable project in the Northern Territory

July 16, 2019

TUESDAY, 16 JULY 2019 
SUBJECTS: Sun Cable project in the Northern Territory

RODERICK CHAMBERS: But first, In the desert outside of Tennent Creek in the Northern Territory a huge array of Solar Panels are being built. This will be a $20 billion dollar project to supply electricity to Singapore and the company supplying it is called Sun Cable. I asked the Shadow Minister for Climate Change, International Development and the Pacific and Defence, Pat Conroy, how big this development was for Australia.

PAT CONROY, SHADOW MINISTER ASSISTING FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: Australia has the greatest concentration of solar radiation of any continent in the world. So, we should be the heart of solar power and it makes sense for our near Asian neighbours to take advantage of the cheap solar power that we can generate to be transported to their nations through underwater high DC cables where you actually lose very little electricity in transporting them to Singapore or Indonesia.

So these projects have been talked about for a long time, it's quite practical if you get the finance together and customers, so it's not a surprise that we are seeing a strong interest in it.

CHAMBERS: Why haven't we got this electricity going to some of our own places here in Northern Territory and South Australia say for instance?

CONROY: Well it's a function of geography and the customer demand. So we've got strong solar radiation in the Northern Territory, Western Queensland, Western New South Wales, and Western Victoria and those final three feed into the National Electricity Market. But Pilbara and where they're looking at the solar power for Singapore, are quite remote areas so you need a lot of customers to justify it. And in places like Singapore the prices of electricity is very expensive so they are prepared to underwrite the cost of building not only the solar farms but the long transmission connections you need to get the power to where the customers are.
CHAMBERS: And what would be the possibility of getting this sort of array up elsewhere up in the country to replace some our ageing coal-fired power stations?
CONROY: As I said it's already happening in Western New South Wales, Western Queensland and.. 

CHAMBERS: But that big one in Western New South Wales that the New South Wales Government was talking about?

CONROY: Some of these are happening without Government involvement but the challenge federally is that all of these investments are driven by our Renewable Energy Target. That target will be met next year and this Government has had something like fifteen energy policies in six years. So we are going to see investment fall off a cliff which means we won't be getting extra renewable energy coming into the system to replace our ageing coal-fired power stations which are breaking down more and more due to their age.

CHAMBERS: So have got any plans to bring this up in Parliament when it resumes?
CONROY: Oh absolutely. It is something I and my Labor colleagues talk about consistently. We went to the last election with very strong policies for example, a $1.1 billion dollar hydrogen plan, a plan to produce batteries in this country for example and we will be keeping up the pressure on the Government. This is the start of another Industrial Revolution, one where Australia is uniquely placed due to our geography, our great solar and wind resources but we need action from this Government which is hopelessly divided between those who refuse to accept the science of climate change and those who just can't be bothered taking action. So we will be placing the pressure on them when Parliament resumes; you can take that to the bank.

CHAMBERS: Shadow Minister for Climate Change, International Development and the Pacific and also Defence, Pat Conroy speaking with me there.