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Gov’t announces conserving steps to avoid blackout

With 7 power plants down, home thermostats should be at 18˚ to 20˚
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Nov 17,2012
The government encouraged the public to conserve energy by keeping the temperature in their residences between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius (64 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit) this winter to prevent possible blackouts caused by electricity shortages.

“I am clearly aware that we are inconveniencing the public with the repeated problem of power supply shortages,” Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said during a press briefing yesterday. “But we are expecting a serious power shortage this winter, and without your help, we cannot overcome this problem. I am asking you all once again to take part in energy conservation.”

This is the second time this year that the prime minister has asked the public to cut back on its electricity use. The last time was in May right before the sweltering summer arrived and threatened a spike in electricity consumption.

Korea had its first nationwide blackout in September?2011 due to an unexpected heat wave. Since then, the government has been ramping up its energy conservation campaigns in both summer and winter.

The worry this winter is that seven nuclear power plants are out of operation because of safety issues. The government hopes to get two back on line, but that is not guaranteed.

The government’s goal is to maintain the power reserves at four million kilowatts between December and February.

The government hopes to cut down 3.2 million kilowatts of electricity?use through the conservation campaign.

Without the campaign, the government worries reserves will drop to 1.27 million kilowatts, which is on the edge of the one million kilowatt level that automatically shuts down power supply to households.

“Under no circumstances should there be a blackout that stops energy supplies to households,” said Lee Gwan-seob, managing director at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s energy resource division. “People’s lives are at stake if such happens.”

The conservation measures released by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy include forcing 65,000 buildings nationwide with monthly power consumption over 3,000 kilowatts to set their indoor temperatures to between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius. Those who don’t will be fined 3 million won ($2,750). Government offices and state-run companies will have their thermostats set at 18 degrees Celsius.

“In government buildings, the use of personal heaters will be prohibited to set a model for others to follow,” Prime Minister Kim said.

Retail stores will be encouraged to turn off signs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Last year, companies were forced to cut back on energy consumption by 10 percent. This year, they will be asked to cut back between 3 and 10 percent. The government said more lenient regulations were adopted this year because last year’s were too much.

“Around 60 percent of the companies did not follow the government’s regulations and complained that the request was just impossible,” said Lee of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

By Lee Sun-min [summer@joongang.co.kr]



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