Asia Minute: Northeast Asia’s Super Grid

Dec 17, 2018

This view of East Asia at night is a composite image assembled from data acquired by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (Suomi NPP) satellite over nine days in April 2012 and thirteen days in October 2012.
Credit NASA Earth Observatory

One of the world’s most ambitious electricity projects is moving ahead in Asia. It’s still in a very preliminary stage — and not all the challenges are related to technology.

Imagine a power grid that links Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia.

Japanese billionaire Masayoshi Son has imagined it, and is working on getting it built, along with the help of several national electric companies. But first, the founder of Softbank needs to work through a whole series of regional political issues and government approvals.

The idea is to use renewable energy in a way that could transmit surplus energy to locations that need it — a system that could deal with differing wind speeds — or move solar power across time zones.

Last week, the Korea Electric Power Company submitted an initial feasibility study to South Korea’s parliament.

It came with a price tag attached — more than 6 billion dollars to make a series of connections from undersea cables crossing international waters to overhead power lines stretching across borders.

Credit Philippe Teuwen / Flickr

And that cost is only the cabling and part of the wiring — it doesn’t include the overall infrastructure spending required as part of the project. KEPCO’s initial report says “although discussions are vibrant, there are many obstacles in the real world.”

There’s also an extended time line.

The target for initial delivery is still a little more than thirty years away.