Exploring the security implications of a Chinese developed and governed transcontinental power grid

Chinese flag in background of outlines of sun power, wind generators, atomic and coal power plants, and electric lines on poles. Photo by Photo by Dancing Man/AdobeStock

Photo by Dancing Man/AdobeStock

What is the issue?

Renewable energies and clean energy innovation offer the opportunity to move away from relying on fossil fuels. However, the intermittent nature of renewable energies also presents a challenge to power grids' real-time supply and demand balancing.

As a solution, China has proposed to develop a Global Energy Interconnection (GEI) initiative that would directly connect renewable producers to consumers around the globe through ultra-high voltage power transmission lines and smart technologies.

Beijing has recognised the potential for GEI and is positioning itself at the forefront of GEI development, leading research on key enabling technologies, exporting Chinese technologies and standards, and supporting the overseas development of power generation and transmission infrastructure.

China is also promoting GEI and its governance standards in international organisations like the UN and the Gulf Cooperation Council. This is like previous Chinese activities in telecommunications, port and railroad transportation sectors and as such, could bear similar global security implications.

How are we helping?

Researchers from RAND Europe and RAND Corporation will assess global security risks stemming from a potential Chinese developed and governed GEI, asking:

  1. What are China's ambitions and technological capabilities in GEI and how do they compare to other nations?
  2. If China were to reach some or all of its ambitions, what would a Chinese developed and governed GEI look like?
  3. What would be the global security implications of a Chinese developed and governed GEI? What solutions exist to mitigate risks?

To address these questions, we will conduct a literature review, bibliometric analysis, a cone of plausibility approach for scenario-making and Day Before/Day After external workshops.

This research is possible through donor-funded seed grants from the RAND Center for Global Risk Security (CGRS). CGRS seed grants provide research funding for a broad range of topics and support cooperation among researchers across RAND's offices and those at peer institutions around the world.