Much of today’s electricity grid was built 40-60 years ago. It was built around large fossil-fuel burning power stations usually sited near large urban areas. European grids are largely national grids.
In order to harness the power of renewable energy, including wind, the grid has to be extended to where the resource is located: i.e. where the wind blows most frequently, and where the sun shines the brightest. For wind, this includes out to sea, and in some remoter land areas. The grid needs to be expanded so that it can deliver power from where the wind is blowing to where it is needed.
The grid also needs to be better interconnected to improve security of supply and prevent black outs – regardless of the source of energy – and in order to improve competition in the electricity market, which would bring down prices. A European grid might also use more modern cables that lose less electricity in transit.
The investment need for new and refurbished grid infrastructure is about €140 bn up to 2020, according to the European Commission. The opportunity is there to make a more modern system that meets tomorrow’s energy, social, environmental and economic needs.
Grid infrastructure upgrade is needed in different parts of the world. Conditions and upgrade needs vary considerably between different countries and regions. Mongolian massive wind resources have initiated a grand vision of an East-Asian super grid.
The idea is to bring Mongolia’s huge renewable energy potential to markets in Japan, via both China and Russia. Mongolia’s more than 1,000 GW of wind potential, combined with solar resources, would be fed through both the Chinese and Russian grids across the South China Sea and Sea of Japan to both Korea and Japan. This is seen as the beginning phase of what will eventually link power systems as far away as India to the west and Indonesia to the south, creating a massive power pool upon which the sun would rarely set.