China’s ambitious $50 trillion global electricity network proposal is certainly ambitious, but considering who its backers are, the plan isn’t entirely outside of the realm of reality.
China’s State Grid Corp., one of the world’s largest electricity production and distribution companies, intends to develop a global electricity network that will harness the power of the sun that shines on the equator as well as the winds that flow over the Arctic. The utility company intends to cooperatively produce electricity through renewable energy sources and distribute it around the world. The electrical company confidently dominates the home market in China and successfully operates most of the large-scale electricity grids that dependably power the world’s second-largest economy.
While announcing the proposal that’s going to cost about $50 trillion, State Grid Chairman Liu Zhenya noted that the project could be completed by 2050 and would primarily rely on renewable energy sources to send eco-friendly electricity cruising throughout the world:
“This is the right thing to do to benefit all the people of the world.”
Zhenya was addressing a media briefing during an international symposium on the project. Incidentally, though he managed to create quite a buzz about the proposal, there were many questions that he left unanswered, most notable being the identity of primary investors who would back one of the biggest infrastructure projects ever attempted.
Why is a Chinese company interested in a global energy project? The proposal costing $50 trillion is almost twice the economic output of the U.S. and China combined. Safe to say, it is an astronomical sum, and many experts have questioned entrusting a Chinese company to lead the development of one of the most critical and ambitious projects. However, China’s State Grid has made some great strides in efficient, long-range transmission lines, which can safely deliver electricity over long distances, with relatively minimal losses.
Electricity is significantly lost during its transportation from the point where it is produced to the location where it is used. Termed as “transmission losses,” a significant amount of electricity produced has to be written off. But the State Grid’s power lines will retain most of the electricity that was previously getting wasted. China envisions these special high-efficiency power lines transmitting electricity to users in Asia, Europe, North America, and elsewhere.
Despite doubts about the $50 trillion proposal, many experts have found the project not only feasible, but quite necessary to develop a dependable global electricity network that generates power using renewable energy resources. Besides, the prospect of an industrial scale project that will reduce the excessive dependence on fossil fuels has excited many environmentalists.
I'm glad they are finally catching on: $50-Trillion Global Electricity Proposal Unveiled By China https://t.co/hEzKc3VVgf— Mark Z. Jacobson (@mzjacobson) March 31, 2016
The world already experiences strong winds in the Arctic. Moreover, the equator does receive intense rays from the sun. If the rapid advances in eco-friendly energy production are combined with these high-efficiency power transmission lines, the State Grid is confident of producing “thousands of terawatt-hours a year.” Incidentally, the world’s electricity generation currently exceeds 20,000 terawatt-hours annually.
Interestingly, the hurdles aren’t technological, shared David Sandalow, a former U.S. Under Secretary of Energy, who has spoken with Mr. Liu about State Grid’s proposal and attended Wednesday’s conference:
“Most of its premises are fundamentally correct. The major barriers to success are institutional, not technical. It’s an open question whether national governments will be open to such a revolutionary idea.”
Many cities and a few a countries have successfully demonstrated that renewable energy sources can indeed fulfill the energy requirements. A few have in fact produced surplus quantities, which they sell to neighboring countries. But with rising concerns of organized hacking groups attempting to cripple grids with focused cyber-attacks, creating a global energy network across national borders could be risky.
What do you think about China’s $50 trillion global electricity proposal?
[Photo by Patrik Stollarz/Getty Images]