Australia has shipped vast quantities of coal and gas to fuel Asia’s rapid growth for decades. But amid global concerns over climate change, investors and a previously skeptical conservative government are now backing plans to build a renewable energy export industry to help diversify its economy. Last month the Australian government awarded “major project status” to Sun Cable, a A$22bn (US$16bn) solar power project in Northern Territory, a remote region more typically known as a source of liquefied natural gas. The designation aims to fast track construction of the world’s largest battery, a solar farm, and a 3,700km electricity cable to supply A$2bn a year of green energy to Singapore by 2027.

“We are creating a new industry by building these high-voltage direct current submarine cable networks that enable the development of massive scale renewable energy, wherever the resource is most abundant,” said David Griffin, chief executive of Sun Cable. “ill ultimately we are looking at a network that extends from India to New Zealand.”

Despite a bruising decade-long political debate in Australia over the future of fossils fuels, the Liberal-National government has begun preparing for a future without its A$55bn-a-year coal industry. Sun Cable is one of several green energy export projects planned in Australia, which is deploying solar and wind capacity at a rate four to five times faster than in the EU, US, Japan, and China on a per capita basis, according to a report by Australian National University.

Macquarie Bank and energy groups Vestas, CWP Energy and Intercontinental Energy are backing the Asian Renewable Energy Hub, a rival project, which aims to use wind and solar power in Western Australia state to make hydrogen products for export to Asian markets. In Victoria, the government is co-funding a A$5oom pilot project to generate hydrogen from coal and store the emissions produced in an undersea basin.

“As technologies change, we can capitalize on our strengths in renewables to continue to lead the world in energy exports,” said Angus Taylor, Australia’s energy minister, when announcing Canberra would support Sun Cable in gaining state and federal approvals. Sun Cable’s plan to supply renewable energy to Singapore