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Ausgrid: Was China’s State Grid rejected because it is too green?

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The Australian federal government has explained its decision to ban the purchase of New South Wales electricity network on the basis of “national security”. But what if the decision was really about State Grid being an affront to the Coalition’s ideological opposition to renewable energy.

The Turnbull government has managed to reveal its true colours on renewable energy in the wake of the South Australia blackout. Even though all authorities have said that the source of energy had nothing to do with the catastrophic failure, the Coalition has used the event to attack renewable energy.

It has questioned the role of renewable energy in energy security, and used it as an excuse to try and force the Labor states to abandon their individual renewable energy targets, which the Coalition describes as “reckless” and “too ambitious”.

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But what if they had to deal with the head of one of Australia’s largest networks who questioned those assumptions. One is tempted to think that that is exactly what State Grid chairman Liu Zhenha (above) would have done – if not publicly then at least behind the scenes.

A few months ago, Liu was invited to an oil and gas conference in Texas where he was asked about his views on how much renewable energy could be incorporated into the grid. They expected him to say “not much”, but he stunned the audience by saying “quite a lot”.

“It is not a technical issue but a cultural one,” he told the audience. And that is clearly what he believes.

Liu has also unveiled an ambitious plan to power the world by wind and solar. He thinks 80 per cent of the world’s energy needs – and that includes transport, heating and industrial use – can be met by wind and solar by 2050.

And, just to show he knows what he is talking about, he wrote a highly technical book called Global Energy Interconnection, to show how it could work.

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Liu envisages a “global village” of efficient transmission lines but says there would be no central power distributing authority. Instead, he sees an internet-like smart grid that would distribute power as needed, its allocations shifting automatically as the globe turned and different regions reached their peak energy demand during the day.

Such predictions would be enough to make Australia’s Coalition members to choke on the IPA corn fritters and short whites, even though a net zero carbon grid is effectively what Australia has signed up for in the Paris climate deal.

Turnbull, the man who once spoke approvingly of a 100 per cent renewable energy scenario, now describes 50 per cent by 2030 for Australia, or indeed any individual state, as reckless. One wonders what he is thinking might replace the coal fired generators that will have to retire in the interim.

But more on Lio Zhenha’s vision for global energy. His vision is for a $50 trillion global electricity network that link existing and future solar farms, wind turbines and electricity plants in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas.

That plan involves buying networks across the world, although he wants to start it off in the Asia region, which is presumably why State grid was interested in Augrid, although it already owns the largest single shareholding in ElectraNet , which runs the major transmission lines in South Australia, and a 20 per cent stake in Victoria’s Ausnet.

Liu describes it as a “global village” of efficient transmission lines to tap and distribute electricity from giant solar farms around the equator and wind stations in the Arctic. Liu estimated that the global network could mean clean energy comprising 80 per cent of global consumption, displacing fossil fuels as Earth’s principal energy source.

Energy transmission technology “has matured and clean energy is becoming more economical, so the conditions for building global power interconnection already exist,” Liu said in a statement on the company’s website.

The Wall Street Journal took a closer look at Liu’s plans in an article earlier this year, noting that the plans have attracted the interest of the likes of Fatih Birol, head of the Paris-based International Energy Administration, and Masayoshi Son, the CEO of Japan conglomerate SoftBank Group.

It may seem far-fetched, but State Grid’s plan is straightforward and much of it is technically feasible, the WSJ quoted the experts said.

“Most of its premises are fundamentally correct,” said David Sandalow, a former U.S. acting undersecretary of energy who has spoken with Liu about State Grid’s proposal and attended its launch.

Like Liu, Sandalow says that the major barriers to success are not technical, but “institutional.” He went on: “It’s an open question whether national governments will be open to such a revolutionary idea.”

Indeed, he pointed out that among those hurdles are the national security questions surrounding the tethering of one country’s power grid with others, and concerns about vulnerability of grids to cyberattacks could weigh on building such a network across national borders.

 

   

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  • Ian

    I think this is the key phrase about high penetration of renewables in the grid
    …..“It is not a technical issue but a cultural one.

    Really inspiring…..

  • Fungal

    So Chinese companies want renewable energy, makes sense, they produce most of the equipment in their manufacturing industries, they don’t drill too much for oil, so why don’t we invest in manufacturing renewable energy? Oh thats right… three letters… LNP.

  • Michel Syna Rahme

    There is one way I can see Mr Liu’s dream or something similar becoming a reality and that is perhaps via a similar concept to the one below.

    If the far right wing of national governments further entrench themselves in ideology dictated by special interest actors that enable our social and political systems to be subjugated via powerful disproportionately funded representatives and lobbyists whose only purpose is to influence the now for short term profits, knowing the clean-up bill and bail outs later will always be burdened upon the working tax payer, rather than instead fostering bipartisanship on the vital issues and making decisions on our behalf based on evidence and verifiable facts and unifying intention, then they will force a Reformation that is perhaps inevitable anyway, and probably the only realistic way we are going to survive past 2100…… And this revolution may become possible soon, when each and every global citizen has direct access to the WWWeb and global social online networks – including those such as Avaaz, Change, Facebook, Google, Apple etc – work together, perhaps pool and merge their resources , and provide penetrating avenues for membership growth, and form a global voting platform where a majority of the world population can, over time, come together, better unify, influence, and perhaps eventually override the power of their national governments when necessary, via a new, new world order that will reflect the fundamental principles of democracy far better than the crap we are currently being peddled!

    Quote from one of the first google results: “Quantum cryptography is the only known method for transmitting a secret key over long distances that is provably secure in accordance with the well-accepted and many-times-verified laws that govern quantum physics. It works by using photons of light to physically transfer a shared secret between two entities. While these photons might be intercepted by an eavesdropper, they can’t be copied, or at least, can’t be perfectly copied (cloned). By comparing measurements of the properties of a fraction of these photons, it’s possible to show that no eavesdropper is listening in and that the keys are thus safe to use; this is what we mean by “provably secure”. Though called quantum cryptography, we are actually only exchanging encryption keys, so researchers prefer the term “quantum key distribution”, or QKD, to describe this process. The no-cloning theorem is one of the fundamental principles behind QKD, and why we think that this technology will become a cornerstone of network security for high value data.”

    Hopefully the computer experts will be able to advise if this is possible…… could a quantum super computer be built with a program that once turned on, shields itself – like a closed loop performing it’s function. A quantum computer program (to count, verify, process, Protect, and provide the result of each global poll and referendums) that is independent, and unable to be manipulated within its programmed function set by parameters of capped artificial intelligence where it alone can assign a ‘quantum key’, an ‘entangled particle’, and therefore a secure ‘quantum bit’ to each individual human’s mobile quantum link via device/chip/polling centre etc, who registers and joins this world union (verified via retina, finger print, other means etc) – so that the information or ‘vote’ transferred between each human and central computer could only be opened and read and processed by the central quantum computer, because only it has the code to unlock the quantum bit – therefore protecting that ‘vote’ from any external party attempting to intercept or manipulate that transfer, so the counted result the central computer provides to the world council could be trusted – that way corruption of votes would be impossible. “For example, it is impossible to copy data encoded in a quantum state and the very act of reading data encoded in a quantum state changes the state. This is used to detect eavesdropping in quantum key distribution.”… Can this be done in theory? And will it be possible in practice? And how far away into the future is it before any of that becomes remotely possible? And, if that’s not realistic or possible, what’s another similar way to reach the same outcome?

    What will happen when the ‘south’ are mostly enabled to easily connect to the web, and the majority of those humans reach a point of education and awareness that enables realisation of the probable inevitability of globalisation, and how the positives outweigh the negatives, and how further exposure to the scientific process should further secure trust in the solutions based on the conclusions to what we need to do to survive and progress and prosper and flourish and reach full human potential over the long term, and all people are provided with a platform that enables each citizen of the planet to empower themselves, and to put it simply, unionise to absolutely demand their basic human rights (which includes the right to clean air, clean soil, clean water)then things get interesting!

    As soon as there is more than 50% of each and every nations population of people (no place nor person excluded) registered and joined into this global platform for democracy – that would be bound to its constitution and founding principles – enabling each persons vote to be truly counted – (not so much to vote on local and nation specific issues, rather to focus and more assertively progress the fundamental principles of human rights, equality, ethics, and social, economic and environmental sustainable development and coperative energy networks etc) – Agendas decided and agreed, for example, by a central council made up of elected representatives representing the minor councils from within the regions of each nation, also all bound to its constitution – then things get interesting! How that system is built and integrated into technology and the social fabric (especially interesting will be what and how quantum computers assist – and how much of the U.N model is scrapped and what is recycled and used as a foundation) is all up for debate.

    Because if such a Movement and Transition and Reformation eventually reaches the point when greater than 50% of each nations population register and commit to establishing a global community framework , that promotes democratic unification and compatible governance systems, it’s at that point, at that point, it could be argued, that no nation could turn their armies upon their people or against the people of other nations – because we are each nation (>50%) …. Living in one, connected, cooperative, shared world. It’s at that point in history where perhaps we can Transcend Borders, and instead live in a world of self sufficient micro communities connected to a global system, with a cooperative energy network linking regional, decentralised, micro grids and storage hubs, all exporting and importing when required. From that point, global growth and industrial output expansion will be therefore linked and coupled to more renewables being brought online to be shared/traded.

    But, it’s not the left and mostly centre that will likely want to fight it, it’ll then be the mostly right that will go to war to protect their monopoly on power, and it’s up to the left and mostly centre to decide whether they defend and fight back and how they choose to fight back or attempt to persuade. If the idea above enters reality, and eventually more than 50% of each nations population join together to create a more equitable connected world – not a stagnant welfare state (competition will always exist) but rather a more sustainable system where the social contract with capitalism is better balanced and rewritten – then things get a little more interesting! At least then, the playing field is just that bit more fair for those with the capability to be just as competent but are less fortunate, bound by poverty and geography, who currently have NO voice! (I.e 3rd world populations / and those living under discrimination and dictatorship etc)

    Perhaps this transition can be manifested from within out, over time, and therefore that process supersede war. Will war end there, when the world is better ‘unified’ and interdependent? What level of sophistication must we each reach to enable that to happen? (Or, rather than a left and right in each nation, will we then create one worldwide left and one worldwide right, and what would happen then?

    Perhaps that’s just the way this transformation will manifest itself from within the laws of nature, inevitability we just can’t see – or choose not to look for because most people are working their butts off to look after the kids – that is preordained by the future destination and higher product from the evolution of homo sapien to whatever is next.

    It’s probably just as probable that the exact opposite of the above happens in our future, and that power becomes even more concentrated with the privileged ‘north’, and inequality and wealth disparities drive a split of our species (divergent shoots from the branches of our human family tree http://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-family-tree ) with the ‘north’ merging with technology and biomedical science, venturing out to populate space, and the ‘south’ most likely facing modern slavery and gradual extinction.

    It’s going to be interesting to see which way it goes!