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Researchers envisage a global sustainable energy grid

Researchers at the Birmingham Energy Institute are working with the C-EPRI Electric Power Engineering Ltd (C-EPRI), to build an industrial scale prototype of a next generation HVDC technology that could pave the way for a global electricity grid, based on renewable energy. 

A team led by Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang, Director of Smart Grid, at the University of Birmingham, will be using innovations developed at Birmingham, that improve the reliability and efficiency of high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) power transmission systems, which are used for the bulk transmission of electrical power. 

The researchers recently published an economic analysis1 demonstrating that coupling HVDC transmission with 100% renewable energy generation can deliver significant cost-savings (a minimum of 20%) when the world’s continents are joined together by a global energy supply grid.

Their vision for the global grid involves connecting renewable energy supply from 14 regions in the world, which span all continents and all time zones.

The regions comprise: the European Union, North Africa and the Middle East, Eastern Russia, Western Russia, Central, South, East and South East Asia, Oceania, Western, Eastern and North-eastern North America, and South America.

Professor Zhang commented: “The prototype based on our theoretical model is now under development and our research aims to increase the availability of renewable energy - by improving the efficiency and reliability of transmission to reduce costs for householders and businesses. It’s important that we can use renewable energy to provide a vital safety mechanism for controlling frequency dips in national power grids. Our vision for a global energy grid could revolutionise the way we use renewables.”

The comprehensive analysis involved data capture for both renewable energy supply and global electricity demand. 

Renewable energy supply was calculated using historical meteorological (weather) data showing the potential for wind and solar power generation over a seven year period (2011-2017), and estimates of hydro-electric power generation from the International Energy Association.

The researchers then calculated transmission costs over land and sea, potential power losses during transmission, and the operational and management costs of an HVDC-based global grid.

A more regional perspective, provided in a previous paper2, shows that adopting this approach would result in the regional cost of electricity dropping by 31%, 10%, and 10% for Europe, North-East Asia and North America respectively.

Professor Zhang has championed the concept of a global energy grid, and has developed several technologies to overcome the practical challenges involved in the transition to renewable energies.

His innovations include prize-winning technologies3 to improve efficiency and eliminate commutation failure in long distance HVDC power transmission and ways of stabilizing local grids that receive renewable energy4.

Professor Xiao-Ping Zhang has a portfolio of patents on related technologies, which are available to view on the IN-PART website.


For further information please contact Ruth Ashton, University of Birmingham Enterprise, email: r.c.ashton@bham.ac.uk


  1. Zhang, Xiao-Ping et al.  Global Electricity Interconnection With 100% Renewable Energy Generation.  DOI:  10.1109/ACCESS.2021.3104167
  2. Zhang, Xiao-Ping et al. Economic Analysis of Power Grid Interconnections Among Europe, North-East Asia, and North America With 100% Renewable Energy Generation.  DOI:  10.1109/OAJPE.2021.3085776
  3.  Zhang, Xiao-Ping et al.  Reactive Power and AC Voltage Control of LCC HVDC System With Controllable Capacitors, January 2017, doi: 10.1109/TPWRS.2016.2557342, which has received the IEEE Transactions on Power Systems 2019 Best Award.  https://tinyurl.com/4x7ks27j
  4. Zhang, Xiao-Ping et al.  Fast Frequency Support From Wind Turbine Systems by Arresting Frequency Nadir Close to Settling Frequency.  DOI: 10.1109/OAJPE.2020.2996949, which has received the IEEE Open Access Journal of Power and Energy 2020 Best Paper Award.

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

University of Birmingham Enterprise helps researchers turn their ideas into new services, products and enterprises that meet real-world needs.  We also support innovators and entrepreneurs with mentoring, advice, and training and manage the University’s Academic Consultancy Service.  Our portfolio of technologies available for licensing can be viewed at https://birmingham.portals.in-part.com/.  

About C-EPRI Electric Power Engineering Ltd

C-EPRI Electric Power Engineering Co., Ltd is a high-tech enterprise, wholly owned by NARI Group Corporation (NARI), a subsidiary of SGCC. C-EPRI is mainly involved in the research, manufacturing and engineering related to Classic HVDC (LCC-HVDC), HVDC Flexible (VSC-HVDC) and DC grid technology.

C-EPRI provides a wide range of products including HVDC converter valves, control and protection systems, along with DC yard equipment. C-EPRI can also provide world-class turnkey solutions tailored to your specific needs.

In addition, C-EPRI  is equipped with the world’s biggest workshop for HVDC Classic and HVDC Flexible converter valves, a globe-leading laboratory for testing our products, as well as advanced simulation and modeling tools for feasibility study, network design and optimization of the whole solution. With decades of research and engineering experience, C-EPRI is taking a leading position in HVDC transmission technology.