The energy system across Asia and the Pacific is undergoing a major transformation towards full electrification. This transformation will require major systematic upgrades and expansion of electricity transmission and grids – on the same scale of investment as required for renewable energy – to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. However, the electricity grid is now becoming a major bottleneck resulting in some renewable energy projects being delayed or cancelled due to the inability to connect these projects. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), globally, at least 3 terawatts of renewable power projects are waiting for a grid connection – this is equivalent to five times the solar photovoltaic and wind capacity added in 2022. It is essential to accelerate the construction of electricity transmission and distribution lines to keep with the pace of renewable energy demand. Based on experience in other countries with large amounts of renewable energy capacity, up-front planning can be critical. The four main areas of discussion in this Thematic Track will include:
- Governance and Optimal Planning of Electricity Transmission and Distribution Infrastructure: Countries have tried different approaches to develop their electricity transmission and distribution grids. With fast growing renewable energy capacity spread across many regions, the process has become more complex. Nevertheless, some developing countries have been able to solve the challenges by deploying well designed approaches to market-based trading and regular industry engagement. What are the successful case studies? What are the resources and legal framework needed? What is the role of vertically integrated electricity companies, transmission and/or distribution companies? How can independent power producers be involved in planning stages? How can planning improve private sector investment decisions?
- Upgrade and Expansion of Electricity Transmission and Distribution Grids: Several existing electricity transmission and distribution grids urgently need: i) capacity upgrades due to rising demand for power, and ii) a substantial reduction in system losses, by replacing existing old and inefficient equipment with high-efficient transformers, substations and cables. In grid expansion projects, it is essential to plan for sufficient future capacity to minimize the number of upgrades, particularly in countries where land acquisition is a challenge. With the rising number of droughts and floods, there is also a need to ensure that all projects are climate resilient by adopting best available technologies. What are the latest technologies available and why should governments consider investment compared to standard technologies? How are countries involving the private sector in the upgrade and expansion of electricity transmission and distribution grids, including new transmission lines to renewable energy zones?
- Smart Grids, Digitalization and Electric Vehicle Charging: Electricity distribution grids in urban areas will have to change dramatically to suit the increasing demand for electric cooking, distributed renewable energy, electric heat pumps and electric vehicle. How can electricity distribution companies plan for rapidly increasing power demand in dense urban areas? What is the role of demand-side management, including power pools, smart metering and time-of-use pricing? How are smart grids being deployed in the region and what is the role of local governments and the private sector?
- Regional Power Grids: With the increasing electrification of the energy system, and the need for renewable energy resources, cross-border transmission lines will be essential to help countries with limited resources and seasonal differences in renewable energy power supply. While progress remains political and slow moving, it is promising that recently, several projects have been announced, some of which are led by the private sector. What is the status of cross-border power integration in the region including Central Asia, Southeast Asia and South Asia? What challenges remain? How are the agreements being structured? What are the upcoming investment needs