The Joint Research Center (JRC), the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, is examining the prospect of a gigantic EU-China grid interconnection project that would also offer access to the enormous renewable energy potential offered by intermediate areas.
The idea was first proposed by Chinese officials in 2016. JRC, which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy, has begun exploring such a project’s potential. Its cost is expected to reach between 15 and 28 billion euros, depending on details.
Domestic Chinese interconnection projects, to link north and south, are now in progress.
According to Euractiv, the European media platform, JRC is examining three different routes for this gigantic interconnection, based on a plan avoiding sensitive areas. The interconnection could end up measuring a length of anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 kilometers.
The shortest EU-China route would start from China’s northwest and run through Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. Its proximity to Mongolia, whose wind energy potential is massive, is a positive feature but the route’s dependency on Russia and Ukraine is seen as a drawback.
The second route being considered would run through the Caspian and Black Sea. However, the installation of underwater power cables needed for this route significantly increases the project’s development cost.
The third option being looked at by JRC, which represents the longest route, begins from northwest China and runs through Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey. Land surface challenges are a problem but this extended route does offer an opportunity for links with many energy sources along the way.
The JRC study acknowledges restrictions in China’s infrastructure but sees this as an opportunity for upgrades.
As a result of the time zone difference between the EU and China, development of an interconnection linking the two would offer opportunities for major flexibility boosts that would enable more effective handling of electricity demand peaks.
SolarPower Europe, the EPIA (European Photovoltaic Industry Association), has described the interconnection prospect as extremely interesting but notes that development of the EU market, the aim being to foster and further incorporate RES units into the system, remains the priority.