Is a global grid possible?

by Zhanghua Zheng, Head of International Cooperation, Manager, GEIDCO Europe Office

This Interview appeared in REVOLVE #32
29 August 2019 | Reading 6 mins.


The Vision of an Interconnected World

The energy transition demands a radical change in infrastructure as we know it. The Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) is the key organization building such change promoting the concept of a global energy interconnection system (GEI) to meet the world’s energy needs in a sustainable way. This is their vision of an interconnected world.

The World in 2050 with GEI: clean energy = 72% of primary energy consumption – electricity = 44% of final energy consumption – fossil energy = 30% of final energy consumption

Why is GEI pivotal to combating climate change and implementing the Paris Agreement?

GEI is a globally interconnected smart grid with Ultra High Voltage (UHV) grids as its backbone. It is an infrastructure platform on which clean energy can be developed, transmitted, and consumed worldwide. The core idea of GEI development is to promote the world’s energy transition from high-carbon to low-carbon, low efficiency to high efficiency, and local power balance to optimal allocation over long distances and large areas. The construction of GEI can promote energy and economic development in developing regions and is a fundamental way to ensure energy access to the 1.2 billion people without electricity.

Under the current climate governance framework, implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement requires the pooling of global wisdom, strength and carrying out of a systematic, comprehensive solution that is implementable, scalable, and replicable. GEI is designed to realize the global optimal allocation of clean energy through power grid interconnection and turn the differences in resources, time zones, seasons, and electricity prices into a sustained power source that drives clean development. GEI will greatly improve the scale and speed of global, clean energy development, its utilization and reduction of clean energy costs.

When compared to the current energy development path, GEI will quadruple the scale of global clean energy development and quintuple the average annual increase rate of clean energy consumption. With the development of GEI, by 2050, clean energy will account for 72% of primary energy consumption, electricity will make up over 44% of final energy consumption and the proportion of fossil energy in final energy consumption will be reduced to below 31%. When that happens, the world will no longer rely on the current energy development path which will reduce the accumulated carbon dioxide emissions of the global energy system from nearly 4.8 trillion tons to around 1 trillion within the century, thus meeting the goal of keeping a global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

What future does GEIDCO envision for an interconnected world?

GEI promotes the comprehensive implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development by guaranteeing sustainable energy for all. By 2030, global generating capacity of clean energy will reach 24,000TWh and the number of people without access to electricity will drop from 1.06 billion to 650 million. The proportion of clean energy in primary energy consumption will rise from 18.5% to 37%. The construction of power grids within countries and transnational and transcontinental power grids will be accelerated and upgraded.

GEI can effectively reduce greenhouse emissions. By accelerating replacement of fossil fuels with clean, electric energies, by 2025, global carbon emissions are expected to peak. By 2030, the global CO2 emissions will drop to 30 billion tons, lower than the current emission reduction targets noted in the Paris Agreement’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

GEI can realize sustainable production and consumption. Between 2015 to 2030, the annual average growth rate of clean energy consumption will be about 4%. By 2030, total energy consumption will be capped at 8.5 billion tons of standard coal and the proportion of power in terminal energy consumption will increase to around 30%. This progress can help realize coordinated, harmonious development between economy, environment, human beings and nature.

What is GEIDCO doing to make this a reality?

GEIDCO is ensuring that the GEI initiative is endorsed and supported by the international community by spreading the vision, organizing and contributing to high-level discussions and conferences. GEIDCO delegations have promoted GEI in 70 countries to form a broad consensus that GEI is major approach to promote the global energy transition and a fundamental solution to tackling climate change. GEIDCO regularly hosts international conferences and has spoken to audiences of over 300,000 and counting. Through continued coverage and in-depth reports by global well-known media, the idea of GEI has reached over 100 million people and will only continue to grow.

GEIDCO establishes cooperation networks and currently has over 600 members in 85 countries from energy, power, IT, finance, and environmental fields. GEIDCO works with these members to build an platform where they can pool wisdom and resources, discuss cooperation, and pursue win-win development. Such cooperation has led to the signing of agreements and joint statements with agencies, organizations, and governments including the UNFCCC, G20 Global Infrastructure Connectivity Alliance and government departments of Egypt, Ethiopia, DR Congo, Guinea, Portugal, and Brazil.

Such cooperation has led to conducting joint research initiatives on major issues such as energy transition, clean replacement, electricity replacement, and cross-border grid interconnection with partners from the International Energy Agency (IEA), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), International Council on Large Electric Systems (CIGRE), International Hydropower Association (IHA), Argonne National Laboratory in the U.S., Stanford University, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Chatham House, Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK, Imperial College London and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

GEIDCO has also been improving capacity building, promoting policies to encourage GEI, and conducting in-depth research, which includes drawing the very first global backbone grid map—The “Nine Horizontal and Nine Vertical Backbone Grids”. GEIDCO has also carried out studies and planning on grid interconnection in five continents, promoting interconnection research, and focusing on project implementation. GEIDCO has established a library of key cross-border and intercontinental projects with 110 projects listed. GEIDCO is actively promoting grid interconnection between Southeast Asia with interconnection plans for China-Myanmar-Bangladesh, China-Myanmar, China-Laos, China-Vietnam. For power interconnection in Northeast Asia, GEIDCO has completed the pre-feasibility study on China-South Korea-Japan interconnection. GEIDCO has also been promoting research on projects such as outbound delivery of solar power in North Africa and hydropower in Middle and East Africa, Africa-West Asia-South Asia interconnection, and pan-Mediterranean interconnection. In March 2018, GEIDCO completed the first GEI energy aid project in Oromia Ethiopia, offering reliable electricity supply to a suburban school with 800 students and teachers, which greatly improved teaching conditions.

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