‘Super Grids Silk Road’ takes shape in Kazakhstan

Rae Kwon Chung [Georgi Gotev]

This article is part of our special report The New Silk Road.

A series of conferences dedicated to the China-promoted One Belt One Road initiative are taking place in the capital of Kazakhstan, Astana. Plans to launch a gigantic renewable energy project with the potential to supply the EU were also mooted.

Saltanat Rahimbekova, Deputy Head of the International Green Technologies and Investment Projects Centre (IGTIC), said the institution she represents is initiating the project ‘Super Grids Silk Road’, as the energetic component of One Belt One Road.

The aim is to massively increase the possibility of the 64 countries along the New Silk Road to tap into cheap alternative energy.

As Rahimbekova explained, IGTIC is an ideological continuation of the heritage of the Astana EXPO-2017 ‘Future Energy’ exhibition. Its main aim is the transfer of green technologies and attraction of investment for green projects.

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Together with the Association of ecological projects of Kazakhstan, IGTIC is initiating the project ‘Super Grids Silk Road. One of the ideas is to motivate scientists to develop next generation solar panels or wind technologies.

She explained that current solar panels are 12th generation, while the aim is to think how the 15th generation versions might look and how to make the energy they produce as cheap as possible.

Rahimbekova added that her institute is willing to cooperate with the recently established Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Silk Road Fund.

One of the big projects IGTIC is presently working on is an atlas of solar and wind energy in Kazakhstan. Every investor will be able to consult the record before deciding the location of projects, she explained.

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Rae Kwon Chung, Climate Change Advisor to the Secretary General of the UN, and ex-Ambassador for Climate Change of the Republic of Korea, made even bolder statements.

Rae Kwon Chung is co-winner of the 2007 Nobel Peace prize together with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He said the ‘Super Grids Silk Road’ was about investing billions of dollars in solar and wind energy and supplying it along the historic route.

At present, the Silk Road countries are suffering from electricity shortages, including cities in south Kazakhstan. But there were many bankable projects, he said, citing the ‘Asia Super Grid’ in Mongolia, an ambitious series of wind power projects.

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SoftBank of Japan, he said, was willing to invest almost $280 billion in Mongolia to export power produced from wind to China, Korea and Japan. He said that the technology was no longer a problem and that the only outstanding issues are political.

In this particular case, the Japanese power company objects to the idea of importing electricity, he said.

But if countries along the Silk Road agree, the political momentum is there, because they support China’s mega project, the Korean climate change leading expert said.

Rae Kwon Chung also agreed that the ideal bank to fund ‘Super Grids Silk Road’ is the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and said the Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organisation (GEIDCO) could oversee it.

With its permanent office in Beijing, GEIDCO is a non-governmental, non-profit international organisation of willing firms, associations, institutions and individuals dedicated to promoting the sustainable development of energy worldwide.

A role for the EU?

Asked by EURACTIV about a possible role of the EU, he said: “They can be an investor. And also they can import electric energy from ‘Super Grids Silk Road’.

He added: “They [the EU] will no longer need Gazprom Russia. This project will be of huge scale, because Central Asia has a huge land space, and the potential to be an exporter of electricity to Europe”.

Rae Kwon Chung said that particular aspect of the project could get off the ground in “maybe in 20 or 30 years. And it will take some time to work on political agreements.”

The Korean expert argued that the climate change impact would be particularly severe in the Middle East and in Central Asia. Until the end of the century temperatures could go up to 6.5 degrees centigrade for Central Asia, which would make it very difficult for people living in this huge area to adapt.

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Even if climate action efforts lead to a 2 degrees decrease, because of its continental climate, temperatures in Central Asia would still go up, he warned, advising Central Asia to start thinking what kind of cities and villages to build for the future.

He warned that Masdar City, a planned 19,000 people city project in Abu Dhabi, is too big, as in Central Asia people were scattered around wider areas. He added that eco-design holds the solution to the challenges.


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