Proposed electricity super grid can bring real connectivity to Asian economies

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/6 23:33:39

The plan for a massive energy "super grid" crossing several countries in Asia has been given a boost after receiving an endorsement from the head of South Korea's state-run power utility, the Financial Times reported recently. Could this serve as a prelude for Japan to cooperate with China in its Belt and Road (B&R) initiative?

The plan, proposed by SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, involves connecting the electricity networks of China, Japan, South Korea, Russia and Mongolia so they can share power supplies. An Asia-wide super grid is more than a fantasy, but it does face challenges and therefore needs to be implemented patiently, step by step.

China has long been committed to energy security cooperation with other Asian countries like Russia and Mongolia. China's State Grid Corp has built power transmission lines linking to Russia, for example. In recent years, China has also stepped up investment in power generation projects in Mongolia to help the country improve its economy. Beijing is seeking enhanced energy cooperation with Asian countries and regions under the framework of the B&R initiative. Existing bilateral collaborations between China and other countries will be an organic and indispensable part of the Asian super grid.

The B&R initiative has paved the way for China to take a leading position in power cooperation with Asian economies. Any country that wants to make the proposed super grid a reality will need to ask for China's help. With its vast territory, China has built up valuable experience in long-distance electricity transmission, which is one of the major challenges faced by the grand project proposed by Son.

SoftBank signed a joint memorandum of understanding (MOU) last year with companies from China, South Korea and Russia to create a framework to establish a massive interconnected grid by first conducting feasibility studies. An inevitable outcome of the MOU is that the Japanese company will expand cooperation with China and tap into China's B&R initiative via a number of joint projects.

However, Tokyo has long been wary of the B&R initiative. Hopefully the super grid proposed by the Japanese company can be a platform for China and Japan to expand cooperation under the framework of the B&R initiative. Even if this cannot be achieved, it should at least clear up Tokyo's misperceptions about the initiative and accelerate the interconnection of Asian infrastructure, just as SoftBank wants to do.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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