As one of the first 20 signatories to the Forum’s Energy for Society Initiative, I know and understand only too well the challenges facing global energy providers. I believe one of the biggest challenges right now and over the next few decades will be to provide secure and affordable access to energy, doing so will be crucial to aiding continued economic and social development in the world’s most rapidly expanding economies. This puts powerhouses of the world economy like China at the heart of this challenge.
In order to address such challenges it is important to create the right framework, we need to be ever mindful of the consequences of any actions on the environment. All energy producers need to find ways in which we can produce power to share, which will spread prosperity in the most sustainable way.
China’s remarkable economic growth and large population have led it to being a consumer of 30% of the world’s energy; this figure will only keep growing, electricity consumption increased by almost 11 per cent last year. Currently much of that energy is generated from coal, which makes China the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gases. Enabling China to continue its economic development while keeping carbon emissions down is critical.
I believe that this is exactly the type of challenge which the basic principles of the Forum’s Energy for Society Initiative seek to address. Even with all the measures that China is taking to reduce emission per GDP unit by 45% before 2020, the country still faces a great challenge in finding clean energy solutions; it will have to look to its neighbours for support, one of those being Russia which has vast hydro-energy resources. At present only 20 per cent of Russia’s hydro-energy resources have been developed, and the greatest unrealized resources are in Eastern Siberia, as close to China as is possible.
Cross-border sharing of power is not a new phenomenon. Canada has for several years supplied peak capacity electricity to the US cities of Boston and New York. Russia provides China with oil and the two governments are in talks about the construction of a new gas pipeline. However, Hydro-energy is clean, reliable and flexible, and can be brought online in minutes, meaning it is a much better solution than coal or gas. The benefits of such energy sharing would of course go far beyond reducing carbon emissions. Such a new energy resource would help develop the economies of both Russia’s Far East (GDP in this region currently half of what it is in the rest of Russia) and also the northern provinces of China.
There are still many obstacles of course which will need to be cleared before such open access to cross-border energy can become a reality for Russia & China. Major investment in cross-border transport and energy infrastructure is required to bring this up the scale required for the task in hand. This will require both business and government to collaborate on lifting these barriers.
If the Energy for Society Initiative can help create the right environment to facilitate the sharing and increased access to renewable resources like hydropower, which I believe it will, then hopefully solutions like this one and many others will stop being just ideas and become reality sooner rather than later.
Author: Artem Volynets is the Chief Executive Officer of EN+ Group.
Image: View of a hydro-electric powerstation in Russia. REUTERS/Ilya Naymushin