Implications of intercontinental renewable electricity trade for energy systems and emissions

Fei Guo, Bas J. van Ruijven*, Behnam Zakeri, Shining Zhang, Xing Chen, Changyi Liu, Fang Yang, Volker Krey, Keywan Riahi, Han Huang, Yuanbing Zhou

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A rapid global energy transition, including the ramping up of electricity generation from renewables, is needed to limit global warming to 2 °C or 1.5 °C. However, renewable resource endowments vary widely between regions, and renewable electricity is currently mainly used locally. Here we use a global integrated assessment model to explore the implications of renewable electricity trade via a set of planned direct-current-type ultra-high-voltage (UHVDC) transmission lines for global energy transition and climate change. We find that renewable electricity trade across large world regions via the underlying UHVDC interconnection can boost renewable electricity production and reduce 2020–2100 cumulative CO2 emissions from the power sector up to 9.8%. Financial investments in the UHVDC lines are offset in the long term by reduced investments in other electricity-generation options, including nuclear and storage. Finally, we find that renewable electricity trade can substantially reduce air pollutant emissions in importing regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1144-1156
Number of pages13
JournalNature Energy
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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