INTERCONNECTING THE WORLD

We have the capacity to enable much greater use of renewable energy by interconnecting the world’s energy grids, says Liu Zhenya.
Liu Zhenya
Chairman
State Grid Corporation of China
“Enterprise innovation is one of the most important factors driving global sustainable developments.”
Liu Zhenya

Perhaps it is a dream, but it is an attainable dream. A global ultra-high-voltage energy grid that ties together solar, hydro and wind energy installations and energy-hungry cities. It is clean, increasingly affordable and, if you ask Liu Zhenya, the Chairman of Chinese state-owned power company, State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), it is exactly what we need to push for in the global energy agenda. SGCC is the world’s largest power company serving more than 1.1 billion Chinese consumers and operating grids in the Philippines, Brazil, Portugal, Australia and Italy.

“Energy is the material premise for economic and social development. Currently, the over-development and use of fossil-based energy result in a series of global problems such as resource shortages, environmental pollution and climate change, causing severe threats to human existence and sustainable development. The fundamental way out is to build a global energy network based on ultra-high-voltage (UHV) connections and smart-grid technology. This can accelerate the deployment of clean energy and form a new energy-development pattern with electric power as the centre, the delivery of clean energy as the priority and improved resource allocation in a global range,” Mr Liu says in a written response.

He points out that recent developments in China show the promise here. So far, SGCC has constructed and put into operation seven ultra-high-voltage (UHV) projects that have together transmitted 400TWh of electricity. They have become the main channels for delivering hydropower in Southwest China and thermal, wind and solar power in West and North China. “These actions strongly help to mitigate smog in East and Central China and accelerate the development of clean energy in the West of China,” he adds.

Of course, interconnecting the energy grids on a continental or global scale is no easy task. Technologically, it can be done, but the greatest challenge lies perhaps in establishing the necessary international collaboration. However, Mr Liu proposes
an initiative. The first cross-border agreements can be in place in 2020, while cross-continent structures can be ready by 2030 and finally, around 2050, we might actually have the globally connected grids in place. And this is where he sees a role for the UN Global Compact. He hopes it can use its position as a convener of different stakeholders in the global sustainability agenda to advocate for a much more governed development of a global energy infrastructure with a focus on renewables and tied together by a backbone of UHV connections – the Global Energy Interconnection.

“As an influential international organization in the field of sustainability, we hope that the Global Compact will play a positive role in focusing the attention of governments, international organizations, social groups, energy companies and financial companies on the sustainable development of global energy and promote the construction of the Global Energy Interconnection,” he writes.

It might sound like too ambitious a plan even for the world’s largest energy transmitter, but Mr Liu reminds us that, without visions, we will not create the revolutionary changes we need to address the world’s energy challenges.

“Enterprise innovation is one of the most important factors driving global sustainable  developments. Innovative enterprises take the lead in creating sustainable development strategies, innovate to improve energy efficiency, actively reduce carbon emissions from their operations and strengthen their cooperation with governments, international organizations and social institutions in order to make a positive contribution to global low-carbon and green developments,” writes Mr Liu.


WHAT’S NEXT?
BUILDING SUPPORT FOR THE GRID

Developing the international grid of UHV connections should take a front seat in the efforts to bring clean renewable power to the world, says Liu Zhenya, and so far he is getting good feedback on his vision.

“I’ve been invited to the World Energy Conference, Global Sustainable Electric Power Cooperation Organization Summit, IEEE Power and Energy Association Annual Meeting, APEC Energy Minister and Entrepreneurs luncheon, UN Climate
Summit and other international conferences many times. At these conferences, I illustrated my concept and idea of a Global Energy Interconnection and received active support and responses from the delegates,” says Mr. Liu.