A Renewable Energy Plan for Asia
Apr 5, 2009 - Stewart Taggart - DESERTEC
Imagine an Asian electricity grid anchored by China at one end and Australia at the other. The grid would distribute solar, geothermal, wind and wave energy. The vision is big. So's climate change.
DESERTEC-Australia advocates such a regional grid. Beginning with a major rollout of solar, geothermal and wind energy in Australia,staged construction of electricity transmission capacity could occur across the region.
The vision is contained in DESERTEC-Australia's "2050: Australia-Clean Energy Superpower," with subsections on Connecting to Asia, Indonesia, the South China Sea, Powering China, Asia's Renewables and Renewable ASEAN.
Looking at Asia's energy status quo, fossil fuels dominate. Renewable energy development is sporadic. National grids aren't interconnected. Carbon costs aren't applied. Vision is lacking.
But if sensible economic and technological rationalisation is applied, what pops out is a networked Asian electricity backbone in which efficiency, price and reduced greenhouse gas emissions are valued. Ultimately, a regional grid could bring efficiencies to energy distribution akin to what the Internet brought to information.
The plan entails building a 10,000-kilometer long electricity transmission system stretching from Beijing to the Great Australian Bight. Australian concentrating solar power, geothermal, wind and wave energy would flow northward. It would be joined by the harnessed geothermal power of Indonesia's volcanoes. This torrent of Austro-Indonesian low emission energy would then wend its way across a wind farm-lined South China Sea to China. An alternative route would be for the transmission system to go by land through a Southeast Asia regional High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power line paralleling existing power lines in Malaysia, Thailand and Laos.
Southeast Asian natural gas and Laotian and Vietnamese hydro power plants could provide 'load balancing' in a regional grid dominated by renewables. Even China's Three Gorges Dam might find a role as hemispheric provider of peaking power. That's because using hydro (and natural gas) for baseload power in an electricity system dominated by renewables makes about as much sense as employing trapeze artists to shovel gravel.
Tibetan and southern Mongolian deserts could be developed for concentrating solar power, wind and geothermal energy. Windfarms stretching from Shenzen to Shanghai off China's east coast could similarly provide huge amounts of power.
A spinal electricity vertebra would span the region. And if regional natural gas pipelines were built alongside high-capacity power lines, the logic would become even more compelling. Massive complexity would be stripped from the natural gas production and distribution industries. That's because natural gas pipelines don't require expensive LNG trains, supercooled tankers, eminent domain seizure of private land or protection against pirates. What would exist instead would be a massively flexible, highly-practical, low-cost common-carrier infrastructure. .
Renewable energy delivered via a ubiquitous regional grid represents a market-based, clean energy dream-team.Since everyone would drink from the same well, there would be a premium on cooperative, multilateral good-neighborliness. Stated negatively, 'collective assured destruction' would maintain peace in a multipolar Asia where regional prosperity hinged upon collective infrastructure stability.
Energy and water loom as 21st Century flashpoints. Tethering Asia to a common watering hole makes more sense than gunboat 'go it alone' fights over resources. Civilized, rules-based sharing seems much smarter. Wouldn't you agree?
To learn more, visit DESERTEC-Australia's website.
To see DESERTEC-Australia's vision on video, click on the links below.