een wereldwijd elektriciteitsnet een oplossing voor veel problemen  GENI es una institución de investigación y educación-enfocada en la interconexión de rejillas de electricidad entre naciones.  ??????. ????????????????????????????????????  nous proposons la construction d’un réseau électrique reliant pays et continents basé sur les ressources renouvelables  Unser Planet ist mit einem enormen Potential an erneuerbaren Energiequellen - Da es heutzutage m` glich ist, Strom wirtschaftlich , können diese regenerativen Energiequellen einige der konventionellen betriebenen Kraftwerke ersetzen.  한국어/Korean  utilizando transmissores de alta potência em áreas remotas, e mudar a força via linha de transmissões de alta-voltagem, podemos alcançar 7000 quilómetros, conectando nações e continentes    
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The quarterly newsletter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (Issue 3, April 1997) Opinion

The Missing Link

by Peter Meisen


Electricity's essential quality was first pointed out more than two decades ago by inventor, scientist and mathematician, R. Buckminster Fuller, who argued that it was the common denominator of all society's infra-systems - food, shelter, health-care, sewage, transportation, communication, education and finance.

Fuller proposed that the premier economic, efficient and sustainable global strategy would be to connect regional electricity systems into a single, worldwide grid that drew especially on renewable energy resources.

In 1971, the UN Natural Resources Council corroborated Fuller's findings, but Cold War politics for many years got in the way of any real international progress. However, in the lead-up to the Earth Summit in 1992, UNEP described the grid initiative as one of the most important opportunities to further the cause of environmental protection and sustainable development.

Technology transforms the economics

Although a fully integrated global grid is still years away, technological advances over the past two decades have made feasible the linking of international and inter-regional networks. Thirty years ago, electricity could only be transmitted efficiently up to 600 kilometers. Breakthroughs in material-science from the NASA program extended that distance to 2,500km in the 1970s, and research has shown that ultra-high voltage (UHV) transmission is now economic and efficient to 7,000 km for direct current and 4,000 km for alternating current.

Buying and selling power is common nowadays in all developed nations, as utility companies seek to level the peaks and valleys of demand. The resulting savings mean reduced costs to the customer and wider markets for the power producers - a massive win-win situation. The latest improvements in technology open up the possibility of extending this trade in energy to the transmission of electricity between North and South hemispheres, so helping balance variations in seasonal demand. Similarly, East-West linkages across continents and time zones could smooth out hourly and day/night fluctuations.

For the developing regions, UHV technology offers immense economic potential. Some of the planet's most abundant sources of renewable energy such as hydro-electric, tidal, solar, wind and geothermal are found in remote locations in the developing world. But, thanks to the latest technology, they are now within economic transmission reach. Exports of this excess, untapped energy to the industrialized world could provide cheaper and cleaner power for the North while injecting much-needed cash into the developing world.

Environmental and health benefits

Over the next few decades in the developed economies, a key environmental question will be that of replacing the present generation of polluting power sources as their economic life expires. Having access to the remote sources of renewable energy via power grids that crossed political boundaries would open up new economic and environmentally sustainable alternatives.

Daily, our planet's population increase by 235,000 people, and 35,000 children die of hunger and hunger-related diseases. Comparative trend analysis shows that as electricity becomes available for developing societies, food and health-care systems are strengthened, infant mortality rates decrease, as do birth rates, while life-expectancy rises. It is important to remember that securing personal survival precedes environmental concern. So while end-use efficiency is a priority in first world economies, demand-side management is difficult in the developing countries in times of accelerating energy demand.

What's missing?

If the technology exists, and the economics make sense, why haven't we accelerated these international grid linkages? Politics, bureaucracy, nationalistic thinking and ignorance of the larger picture are the barriers. What's missing is an informed public that can influence political will. Our aim at GENI is therefore to bring the facts to the public's attention.

Peter Meisen is founder and president of GENI, a Californian non-profit organization which conducts research and education on the interconnection of electrical power networks, with an emphasis on tapping remote renewable energy resources.

Current projects include an Optimized Sustainable Energy Computer Model, a documentary/film, The Powerful Planet,and The International Conference on the Global Grid. Contact Peter Meisen in San Diego at (619)595-0139 or visit GENI's homepage on the Web:


Updated: 2016/06/30

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