Liu Zhenya: Accelerate the Asian Energy Interconnection for Energy Transition and Sustainable Development

“The key to promoting energy transition in Asia lies in the massive development and distribution of clean energy. The discrepancy in energy consumption and distribution decides that building energy interconnection in Asia is an inevitable way forward to promote energy transition and realize clean development,” said Liu Zhenya, Chairman of Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) and China Electricity Council (CEC) at the high-level panel of Commission on Energy, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) on Jan. 17, 2017 in Thailand.

Upon the invitation from Shamshad Akhtar, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretaryof the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacifi (ESCAP), Liu Zhenya delivered a keynote speech entitled Accelerate the Asian Energy Interconnection for Energy Transition and Sustainable Development in the meeting held in Bangkok, which attracted minsters and political leaders from over 30 countries including Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Kazakhstan and other ESCAP members. Discussions were carried out on the theme of “Opportunities and challenges of energy system transformation in Asia and the Pacific” to share visions and strategies of energy reform in Asia-Pacific countries. The event also called on policy makers to take immediate actions to promote energy system reform in order to realize the SDGs set by the UN, specially SDG 7 “affordable and clean energy for all”.

Liu Zhenya analyzed that the root cause for resource constraints, environmental pollution and climate change was the over-reliance on fossil fuels. He came to the conclusion that the most effective solution was to develop low and even zero carbon energy. He believed we needed to follow the developmental law, evolving from the high-carbon, inefficient development model to a low-carbon and highly efficient one with the focus shifting from local balance to large-scale allocation. In his design, people could follow the path of “Two Replacements, One Restore and One Increase” (replacing fossil fuels with clean alternatives in energy production and replacing coal, oil and gas by clean electricity in energy consumption, restoring fossil fuel to its basic attribute as an industrial raw materials, and increasing electrification), leverage Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) as the platform to create a new global energy development pattern with clean energy as the priority, electricity as the center, global allocation as the feature to ensure a safer, cleaner and more sustainable energy supply for the world.

Combining the theme of the conference, Liu Zhenya studied the energy problems in Asia and emphasized the key in Asian energy system transformation was to accelerate grid interconnection and build transnational power transmission channels. He proposed to quicken transnational grid interconnections in Asia with clean energy development as the priority and UHV AC/DC transmission and smart grid technologies as the pillars to establish a green, low-carbon, safe and reliable platform for the optimized allocation of clean energy to meet the power demand in Asia in a clean, green, and sustainable way. The general outline for building the Asian Energy Interconnection is to form a “1+5” interconnecting patterns comprised of grids from China, Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Central Asia and West Asia. To be more specific, we aim to accelerate the development of clean energy in North China, Mongolia and Russia, and transmit the electricity to East China, the Republic of Korea and Japan. In this way, we can realize energy interconnection in Northeast Asia. At the same time, we should also speed up the pace to construct power grids in South Asia and Southeast Asia so they are connected within the region where clean energy from China, Central Asia and West Asia could be transported to meet the demand in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Southeast Asian countries.

Liu suggested prioritizing a batch of demonstration projects as soon as possible in the principle of good profitability, regional economic facilitation, and engagement from all the involved nations in the overall interconnectivity planning. He also called for governments to play the leading role and international organizations, research institutes, industries and enterprises to take participation so as to promote mechanism construction, fundamental research and project implementation together. 

Delegates spoke highly of the concept of GEI and regarded it as a novel idea to promote Asian energy system transformation and an effective solution for world energy sustainable development. They called for in-depth and pragmatic cooperation in planning, design, technological innovation and project engineering to materialize GEI together.

Statistics show that the years 2002 to 2015 have witnessed the Asian energy consumption increase from 3.6 billion to 7.5 billion tons of standard coal with a 5.1% annual growth rate, or 2.8% higher than global annual growth rate on average. What’s more, coal accounts for 53% of energy resources in Asia, 24% higher than world’s average level. The energy structure with coal as the dominant energy resource keeps air pollution and carbon emission at high levels, where sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, PM2.5 and carbon dioxide emissions make up for 49%, 39%, 59%, and 54%, respectively in terms of the world's total emissions. At the same time, more than 500 million Asian people still do not have access to electricity, accounting for 43% of the world’s total. It is learned that the current total installed capacity in Asia is approximately 3TW, accounting for 48% of the world’s total. The installed clean energy generation has exceeded 600GW, taking 40% of the world’s total. The per capita installed capacity is 0.75 KW and its annual consumption is 2,032 KWh, which are 88% and 67% of the world’s average, respectively. The total length of all 200kV and above power lines has surpassed 1.5 million km, which is equivalent to 60% of the world’s total. In respect to a cross-border power grid interconnection, Asia is clearly lagging behind as inter-continental power interconnection layouts have already been formed in Europe and North America. As a result of the Asian Energy Interconnection, clean energy will contribute 40% of Asia’s total installed capacity in 2030.