Harvard Gazette: Global Power Grid for Global Powers

Distributing power may be more challenging than discovering or producing power. State Grid Corporation of China is the world’s largest utility company, and its former Chairman and President, Liu Zhenya, describes how the company's work on transmitting power via ultra-high-voltage lines throughout China could be applied to a global energy grid, “effectively revolutionizing the practicality of green power and enabling outreach to underserved areas,” writes Clea Simon for Harvard Gazette. “Such a grid would transmit power generated by solar, wind, and water around the world, allowing energy-ravenous cities to utilize currently inaccessible clean resources.” With such transmission, the Sahara Desert’s solar energy could meet global supply, and Liu describes a grid of nine latitudinal and nine longitudinal transmission lines circling the globe. Such a smart grid would require standardization among the world’s utilities and would have to withstand attacks from hackers. The grid could cost $38 trillion, but would reduce the world's energy costs. – YaleGlobal

Harvard Gazette: Global Power Grid for Global Powers

World’s largest utility company, State Grid Corporation of China, works on long-range electric transmission lines that would allow nations to share energy
Clea Simon
Friday, April 20, 2018

Liu Zhenya has a vision for revolutionizing not just how we produce energy, but also how we share it. Liu, former chairman and president of State Grid Corporation of China (SGCC), the world’s largest utility company, is now the chairman of the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization, a United Nations- and SGCC-affiliated group. Speaking on Tuesday at Harvard Law School, Liu outlined a two-part program for energy independence — and interdependence.

The talk, “The Art of Energy Revolution: From Ultra-High-Voltage Power Grid to Global Energy Interconnection,” was sponsored by the Harvard-China ProjectEast Asian Legal Studies, and Harvard Global Institute.

Since 2004, Liu has been working with colleagues on ultra-high-voltage (UHV) electricity transmission. Initially proposed to solve energy shortages in his rapidly growing country, such transmission is, in Liu’s words, “a key technology for ultra-large energy grids,” several of which are now functional in China. Highly efficient, the technology can transport more electricity over longer distances, effectively revolutionizing the practicality of green power and enabling outreach to underserved areas. “UHV tech has become a symbol of Chinese innovation,” noted Liu, speaking through a translator.

This domestic breakthrough is only the first step, he said. Liu discussed the potential for UHV technologies — and new advances currently being worked on — to enable the next step: global energy interdependence. Such a grid would transmit power generated by solar, wind, and water around the world, allowing energy-ravenous cities to utilize currently inaccessible clean resources. (Liu noted that solar energy in 7.7 percent of the Sahara Desert could meet global energy needs.)

It would also allow underdeveloped and developing nations to access the same resources and bypass the traditional carbon-heavy stages of burning coal, wood, or manure, effectively helping to balance income inequality on a global scale.

Global energy interdependence holds promise to “push the world out of fossil-energy dependence and overcome resource shortages, environmental pollution, and climate change,” Liu said. “It will ultimately provide solutions to the problems of global energy development.”

A global grid, he continued, would be “jointly constructed and mutually beneficial to all.” Ultimately consisting of nine latitudinal and nine longitudinal lines that would span continents and oceans, he said this “smart grid” would be “the foundation that allows the distribution of clean energy sources, optimizes utilization, and fulfills the diversified needs of end users.”

Of course, such a grid would face both technological and political challenges. It also would require extensive rebuilding of existing grids. Liu explained how even in North America different systems are used between the U.S. and Mexico and the U.S. and Canada. In addition, as noted in a post-talk Q&A, a global grid would likely stir fears of energy vulnerability.

“Yes, there will be hackers,” answered Liu. “There are countries that don’t get along. But will the U.S. turn off the internet to Russia? No, because it’s to its advantage to keep it open. When you encounter these problems you can address them.”

Economics should also help sway doubters, he said. Although a global investment of $38 trillion would be necessary to create such a grid, the cost for an individual country would be closer to $390 billion, a price that would be offset by lower energy prices (by as much as 2.8 cents per kilowatt) and increased productivity, Liu said.

Listing the energy goals of the Paris climate agreement, Liu said that a global grid “would promote world peace and harmony, because we could go from competing for fossil fuel sources to being cooperative.”   

Harvard Gazette                                       

Copyright Harvard Gazette


The Chinese are throughout their history addicted to gigantism. Gigantic canals, gigantic long walls, gigantic desertification, gigantic ghost towns, rivers running gigantically black, food gigantically polluted, gigantically frustrated people who are gigantically oppressed, gigantic violation of human rights...

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.