The Potential of Photovoltaics to Power the Belt and Road Initiative

Shi Chen, Xi Lu (Corresponding Author), Yufei Miao, Yu Deng, Chris P Nielsen, Noah Elbot, Yuanchen Wang, Kathryn G Logan, Michael B McElroy (Corresponding Author), Jiming Hao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


Construction of carbon-intensive energy infrastructure is well underway under the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), challenging the global climate target. Regionally abundant solar power could provide an alternative for electricity generation. An integrative spatial model was developed to evaluate the technical potential of solar photovoltaic power. The influence of impacting factors was quantified systematically on an hourly basis. Results suggest that the electricity potential for the BRI region reaches 448.9 PWh annually, 41.3 times the regional demand for electricity in 2016. Tapping 3.7% of the potential through deploying 7.8 TW capacity could satisfy the regional electricity demand projected for 2030, requiring an investment of approximately 11.2 trillion 2017 USD and a commitment in land area of 88,426 km2, approximately 0.9% of China’s total. Countries endowed with 70.7% of the overall potential consume only 30.1% of regional electricity. The imbalance underscores the advantage of regional cooperation and investments in interconnected grids.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1895-1912
Number of pages18
Issue number8
Early online date27 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 21 Aug 2019


  • belt and road initiative
  • solar PV
  • electricity potential
  • capacity potential
  • capacity factor
  • green BRI
  • grid interconnection
  • energy infrastructure
  • solar power potential
  • solar system modeling


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