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China has plans to link its power grid with Europe

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two modern electrical technicians using laptop in substation

Transmission and distribution

There are proposals being studied by the Chinese power sector to develop a transcontinental power network that word link China with markets in not only in Central Asia but even Europe.

Such a project if ever realised could cost between 15 and €28 billion, depending on the number of countries crossed and seas crossed. As a rule of thumb, overhead cables cost at least around €2 million per kilometre to construct.

This proposal would be great at linking renewables rich areas with high-energy requirement regions in need to switch away from fossil fuel dependency.

In fact, developing such power transmission corridors to link the Chinese power sector with that of Europe, would enable Central Asian states, to become up good birds that net energy exporter’s, once sufficient capacity in renewables such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal are exploited in Central Asia.

According to the Chinese government, there is a joint research effort between the European Union and the Chinese government to investigate the viability of linking the power grids of both China and Europe.

In fact, building such a network would be useful to China where parts of the country suffer from a renewable energy power glut caused by massive investment in hydroelectric plants along the Yangtze and Mekong rivers. In addition, China expects to have developed some hundred gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020, thus beating Europe’s target of 105 GW by 2020.

The question is would China be able to construct such a transmission link of between 5000 to 8000 km on time and on budget. Chinese companies have built many impressive projects in the past including the high-speed rail network that links its main cities.

Already, China is in the midst of developing a new transmission corridor that will link the energy-intensive industrial areas of the northeast with cities along its coastline.

A new Silk Road perhaps

EU’s Joint Research Centre has suggested several options for such a transcontinental power link. These are:

  • The first route would link China’s renewables rich North West, before crossing Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine. This project would exploit much of the existing power infrastructure in these underdeveloped countries, although much of it would have to be upgraded and it would give access to Mongolia’s abundant wind prospects. However, the main negative of the route is that it would have to pass through Russia and eastern Ukraine. The political situation and ongoing conflict between the two countries, mean that construction would be all but impossible for some time.
  • The second scenario bypasses Russia and Ukraine by crossing the Caspian and Black seas. It also traverses more areas that could be exploited for clean energy. However, the need for submarine cables, extra regulatory barriers in more countries and greater energy losses due to the longer cable count against the route. There are also doubts about whether Russia would be interested in granting essential permits given it would reduce Europe’s need for imported Russian gas, which Moscow continues to export to European markets.
  • The third, and longest route is different, because it starts in southwest China and makes its way to Europe via Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. The challenges posed by the terrain are significant crossing several mountain ranges, but the potential to tap into varied sources of clean energy are equally rewarding.

Possible benefits

If such a project is realised, it could help Europe reduce its reliance on imported Russian pipeline gas or LNG from such countries as the United States. In addition, it would help Europe meet its Paris Accord targets to reduce its emissions. It would also help coal-reliant countries as if Germany, Poland, and Serbia to close their coal power stations.

Because, the transmission network would cross several time zones regardless of what route would be picked, the JRC’s experts pointed out it would increase the flexibility of the systems connected to the linkages as peak loads vary depending on local habits and time. For example, the energy that would otherwise be wasted in one country due to lack of demand late at night could be sent through the grid to another country where needs are greater in the early evening.

Possible problems

Many of the borders the route of the transmission might cross are in areas where there is civil unrest or other problems, such as between Ukraine and Russia between Pakistan and India.

In addition, there are concerns that Russia would have little interest in such a project because it would bring a new source of competition to its existing gas exports to Europe.

In addition, there are concerns in India about the prospect of being reliant on Chinese energy. At present, there is no agreed system of regulation of energy trading between the countries concerned.

Other issues

Although an interesting idea, in it would be likely to be a major technical and financial challenge for all those concerned in this complex project. It is clear, there are doubts that such a project could be bankable given the many complex energy security, trading and market issues that would need to be determined before such could be built.

For some industry experts, it looks as a solution in search of an answer. In fact, is it away for Chinese engineering companies to find new work for their skilled and expert staff. For consumers both big and small question is will such a project deliver affordable, reliable, and environmentally friendly power to the metre.

e are proposals being studied by the Chinese power sector to develop a transcontinental power network that word link China with markets in not only in Central Asia but even Europe.

Such a project if ever realised could cost between 15 and €28 billion, depending on the number of countries crossed and seas crossed. As a rule of thumb, overhead cables cost at least around €2 million per kilometre to construct.

This proposal would be great at linking renewables rich areas with high-energy requirement regions in need to switch away from fossil fuel dependency.

In fact, developing such power transmission corridors to link the Chinese power sector with that of Europe, would enable Central Asian states, to become up good birds that net energy exporter’s, once sufficient capacity in renewables such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal are exploited in Central Asia.

According to the Chinese government, there is a joint research effort between the European Union and the Chinese government to investigate the viability of linking the power grids of both China and Europe.

In fact, building such a network would be useful to China where parts of the country suffer from a renewable energy power glut caused by massive investment in hydroelectric plants along the Yangtze and Mekong rivers. In addition, China expects to have developed some hundred gigawatts of solar capacity by 2020, thus beating Europe’s target of 105 GW by 2020.

The question is would China be able to construct such a transmission link of between 5000 to 8000 km on time and on budget. Chinese companies have built many impressive projects in the past including the high-speed rail network that links its main cities.

Already, China is in the midst of developing a new transmission corridor that will link the energy-intensive industrial areas of the northeast with cities along its coastline. 

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