China State Grid joins Desertec

State Grid Corporation of China – the world’s largest power utility – has joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII) as a shareholder, representing a huge win in both symbolic and practical terms for the Munich-based group.

State Grid, which is China’s third-largest largest company in revenue terms, will join DII through its subsidiary China Electric Power Research Institute (CEPRI).

State Grid is “very keen to find options for contributing effectively to future transmission extension projects connecting countries and continents”, explains CEPRI vice president Liang Zhong Yao.

Among State Grid’s most pressing challenges is finding an economical way to link the immense wind and solar resources in western China to the country’s coastal demand centres.

The inclusion of State Grid – the first company from the Far East to join DII as a full shareholder – comes after a bruising and at times disorientating year for DII.

In July the not-for-profit Desertec Foundation – which jointly launched DII and gave it its name – withdrew from the group, citing the “maelstrom of negative publicity” surrounding the “management crisis” at DII which ultimately saw chief executive Paul van Son prevail over his rival Aglaia Wieland.

Since then, DII has emphatically tried to turn the page on the incident. In September it announced that its shareholders – a list that includes renewables heavyweights like First Solar, Enel Green Power and E.ON, in addition to financial giants like Deutsche Bank and Munich RE – had asked it to transform from a “temporary project initiative” to a “permanent industry organisation”.

The Middle East and North Africa region is set to roughly double its installed renewables capacity over the next two years, leaving it with 3.3GW, DII recently predicted. Morocco will lead the way, with nearly 2GW set to come online over the next two years.