Ultra-High-Voltage Direct Current and Macro Grids

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Ultra-High-Voltage Direct Current and Macro Grids

A national direct-current macro grid could drastically lower emissions in an affordable way without compromising our access to electricity.

Key Insight

In the near-future, we will transport clean energy from production sites to areas where power is needed using a new kind of power grid being tested in China.

The Impact

Ultra-High-Voltage Direct Current can carry electricity farther with less loss, which will help feed China’s relentless hunger for power. In addition to China, UHVDC will help large countries like Brazil and India deliver more power longer distances, which will help stimulate economic growth.

Why It Matters

A national direct-current macro grid could drastically lower emissions in an affordable way without compromising our access to electricity.

Examples

In the U.S. and throughout Europe, electricity is generated at a power station and then transmitted using alternating current. But that technology is inefficient over very long distances, and even smart grids haven’t always been able to cope with climate change and our increasing consumer demands for heat and air conditioning. A new kind of transmission system—ultra-high-voltage direct current (UHVDC)—is being tested in China, which has invested $88 billion to build the future of UHVDCs and macro grids. India has made a similar investment.

What’s Next

China has already moved ahead of the U.S. in developing this technology and is investing heavily in green technologies. The first 800,000-volt line, from a dam in Yunnan Province to Shanghai, has already been completed. Next up, the Changji Guquan system, spanning the east-west expanse of the country, which on its own can carry half the power needed to serve the entire country of Spain. China has made it known that it plans to transport clean energy all around the world, and its Belt and Road Initiative could help in that effort. Fifty years from now, it’s conceivable that we’re all reliant on China—rather than OPEC countries (Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Venezuela, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Algeria, Angola, and Ecuador)—for our energy needs.

Watchlist

AGTransWest Express Transmission Project, ABB, China, GE, Hitachi, India, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, Siemens, U.S. Department of Energy, and OPEC member nations.