중앙데일리

Without enough juice, summer blackouts possible

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July 07,2010
As Seoul’s temperature soars over 30 degrees Celsius yesterday, the water fountain at the Seoul Forest Park becomes a popular attraction. [YONHAP]

Before you reach for the air conditioner remote, consider this: Due to excessive energy use, Korea could experience blackouts this summer.

According to the Ministry of Knowledge Economy yesterday, power cuts are “highly possible” if conservation measures don’t kick in. The ministry based its prediction on a sharp fall in the total volume of reserve electric power.

The ministry said Korea’s energy consumption at its peak this summer is expected to reach up to 70.7 million kilowatts, which is 11.8 percent more than last summer, when the weather was less oppressive. Korea’s energy supply is 75.3 million kilowatts.

The problem is that demand is growing much faster than supply because of both the hot weather and the rapidly recovering economy, which leads industry to use more power. Korea posted economic growth of 8.1 percent in the first quarter of this year, and the government raised its annual growth projection from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.

The energy supply is expected to increase by only 3.7 percent this year. What that means is that the country’s reserve electric power is likely to fall as low as 4 million kilowatts, or 5.8 percent of supply, which is a risky figure for Korea, according to the ministry.

Until now, the lowest level of electricity reserves was in the very hot summer of 1994. The reserve ratio then fell as low as 2.8 percent.

“Current electricity conditions are not in such good shape,” said a ministry official. “At this pace, Korea’s reserved electricity might fall lower than 4 million kilowatts.”

If reserves fall below the 4 million kilowatt level, the government has the right to demand power cuts and control electricity usage.

Of course, the threat of power cuts has been raised in previous summers, and in some winters, but they’ve always been avoided.

One method was through conservation measures, and the ministry is planning to restrict the use of air-conditioning starting next month during the peak hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. for buildings that consume more than 2,000 ton-oil-equivalents (or TOEs) of energy.

The government will advise buildings to turn off the air-conditioners for 10 minutes every hour.


By Lee Eun-joo [angie@joongang.co.kr]



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