American Innovation, Chinese Transmission, Australian Clean Energy - 15 May 2009


In "Australia 2050, Clean Energy Superpower," DESERTEC-Australia proposes a pan-hemispheric High-Voltage Direct Current power line and natural gas pipeline network stretching from the Great Australian Bight to Beijing.

Through this network could flow everything from Southern Ocean wave energy to Mongolian wind power, 'load balanced' on a regional basis by cross-border natural gas and hydropower. Asia could build the ultimate multilateral 'smart grid.'

The benefits would be: more efficient transport of energy, greater security of energy supply, better price signals for investment, dramatic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

America has an edge in business innovation and risk-tolerant venture capital. Australia has an edge in resources, particularly renewable energy. China has an edge in High Voltage Direct Current power lines, and soon Ultra High Voltage Power lines.

Use American venture capital expertise to encourage renewable energy experimentation throughout Asia, including Australia, with the Chinese providing Ultra-High Voltage Direct Current power line technology. Natural gas pipelines could then be laid alongside.

Downstream backup supplies like fuel cells, electric vehicle fleets, hydrogen and distributed natural gas supplies could offset any short-term delivery disruptions. Demand management agreements with discretionary customers could provide a further buffer.

A recent US study "A Roadmap for U.S.-China Cooperation on Energy and Climate Change" noted the United States and China had in common large renewable energy resources and aging, inefficient energy transmission infrastructures.

Fitting out Australia with a transcontinental High Voltage Direct Current transmission system and a unified national gas pipeline system would cost about US$23 billion, or roughly 3% of Australian GDP.

The cost of a pan-Asian HVDC/natural gas pipeline system would cost about US$300 billion, or about 2% of Asian regional GDP. That's in line with estimates made by UK economist Nicholas Stern that the world needs to make investments of roughly 2% of GDP in the future if the world is to have any hope of avoiding the worst ravages of climate change.

Renewable energy 'load balanced' by natural gas and hydropower, delivered across borders and with investment price signals delivered through carbon pricing could spark a massively positive investment boom in retooling the Asian hemispheric economy.

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