High-level Luncheon on GEI Held in UN Headquarters

A high-level luncheon, themed as “Building Global Energy Interconnection and Achieving a Sustainable World”, co-organized by United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO) at the UN Headquarters attracted more than 170 representatives from 100-odd UN organizations, international organizations, research institutes, and transnational corporates to reach a broader consensus on a higher level and promote the implementation of the China Initiative of GEI proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping at the UN Sustainable Development Summit on September 26, 2015. Some keynote speakers included United Nations Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo, Chairman of GEIDCO and China Electricity Council (CEC) Liu Zhenya, African Union Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Elham Ibrahim, and Director of Argonne National Laboratory Peter B. Littlewood. The seminar has reached a broader consensus on developing GEI and came to a successful conclusion.

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UN Under-Secretary-General Wu Hongbo mentioned in his speech that building GEI and promoting energy transition was the key to implementing 2030 Agenda, addressing climate change, eliminating poverty and realizing Sustainable Energy for all, in line with the common interest of all mankind.  He pointed out that the advance in technology and economic performance would bring down the cost of renewables while investments increase. Many developing countries and regions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are rich in renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, hydro and geothermal. Through increased Global Energy Interconnection, those resources could be connected and converted into economic advantage that would benefit all, narrow regional gaps, and make a significant contribution to the peaceful and harmonious development of the world. Wu also said there would be challenges as a grand vision was moved forward. He hoped an informed, balanced and objective discussion would prove a fruitful starting point and contribute more to the sustainable development of world energy. He said the UN would actively organize related parties for a solid implementation of GEI to make it a reality.

Liu Zhenya made a keynote speech entitled “Jointly Building GEI; Realizing Sustainable Energy for All” on the luncheon. According to Liu, GEI and “Two Replace” (replacing fossil fuels by clean alternatives in energy production and replacing coal, oil and gas by clean electricity from afar in energy consumption), was an inevitable way out to tackle major challenges such as energy constraints, environmental pollution and climate change in an effort to realize the goal of sustainable energy for all. Integrating energy transmission, resource allocation, information exchange, smart service and market trade, GEI is the basic form of future energy networks. Accelerating GEI is not only imperative to the realization of energy interconnectivity, but also essential to promoting the Energy, Information and Transportation Integration (EITI). Liu deemed GEI could be divided into three phases: domestic, intracontinental and intercontinental interconnection. The goal was to complete its construction by 2050, when clean energy is expected to account for 80% of total energy mix; energy scarcity in Asia, Africa and Latin American countries could be basically eliminated and global CO2 emission would be controlled at 11.5 billion tons with the target of holding global temperature rise by 2°C being reached.

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Liu Zhenya hoped to give full play to strategic planning, innovation and international cooperation to coordinate economic, social and environmental development and strengthen the study on major strategic issues. He believed we needed to have scientific overall planning on GEI, lead and promote large-scale clean energy bases and distributed generation as well as the construction of cross-border, intercontinental energy channels and continental backbone power grids. Liu argued that we would speed up technological, industrial and financial innovations and encourage inter-disciplinary and cross-industrial joint R&D to make new breakthroughs in key technologies, such as low-cost clean energy generation, large-capacity energy storage, and UHV submarine cable. Besides, he also called for the international community to strengthen coordination and cooperation to build GEI and realize SDGs.

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Dr. Elham M.A. Ibrahim delivered a speech on the luncheon on behalf of Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chair Person of the African Union. According to her, at the fiftieth anniversary of the African Union, the Agenda 2063 was established, with the great vision of “an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”. As one of the key components in realizing the vision of the African Union, efforts would be made to accelerate regional and continental integrated infrastructure development for effective & sustainable deployment of energy resources in Africa. Africa has a significant abundance of diversified energy sources that include from renewables with the target to reach 300 GW of renewable energy in Africa by 2030, which will obviously bring huge benefits to investors and African people. The establishment of GEIDCO for addressing climate change, affordable and clean energy comes at the right time to contribute significantly to the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the aspirations of the African Union Agenda 2063, as it will bring opportunities to energy development in Africa and help African countries to shake off poverty and promote social and economic development. The African Union has already embarked on setting up several pipeline projects for regional and continental interconnections including the North-South Power Transmission Corridor, the West Africa Transmission Corridor and the North African Power Transmission Corridor. Besides, the African Union is also taking efforts to create a more transparent environment for investment to attract investors to carry out their business in Africa.

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Littlewood argued that theories and technologies related to electricity haven’t seen many breakthroughs since the era of Edison and Tesla. However, in recent year, they did make huge progress. This is the result of the achievements made by China in UHV power transmission and the development of GEI. At the conference, Littlewood also systematically introduced the storage technology that is closely related to the building of GEI.

This high-level luncheon had an extensive influence and fruitful results, receiving active responses from the international community. It was commonly recognized that China initiative of GEI was of great importance to promote clean development, tackle climate change and realize sustainable development. Participants of the conference also hailed China’s progress and expressed the willingness to strengthen international cooperation and collaboration to promote infrastructure interconnectivity and GEI.