[Viewpoint] Korea s green leadershipAt the Major Economies Forum at the G8 summit meeting held on July 9 in L Aquila, Italy, Korea was selected as a leader in smart grid technology. A smart grid is next-generation energy technology that combines IT technology with existing electricity networks. It s cutting-edge technology for more efficient use of energy.
In the meeting, participating countries chose seven technologies to change the world as ways to cope with climate change. They include the smart grid, energy efficiency, solar energy, carbon capture and storage, bioenergy, high-tech automobiles and highly efficient coal technology with low carbon emission.
Our country will draw a detailed map of the country s smart grid, and for the first time in the world, prepare a plan on how to develop the technology for the future and submit the plan to the MEF by Nov. 15.
Being selected as a leading country in the smart grid field is meaningful for several reasons. It was the first and only case so far for a non-G8 country to be chosen as a leading country, and that means our technology and competence are earning international recognition. The incumbent administration has designated smart grid as an industry for green growth and is implementing various policies for that purpose.
Our country receiving the honor as the leading country in the smart grid field shows that our administration s will to implement the policies and the Ministry of Knowledge Economy s efforts have officially earned recognition.
In other words, the decision publicly affirms that our smart grid technology is ahead of other countries .
Smart grid technology intends to make existing grids the network for delivery of electricity from nuclear, water or thermal power plants to customers smarter.
By smart, it means that when a piece of equipment or machine on the grid is not functioning, it is immediately reported to those in charge, and even before mechanical or technical problems take place, they can be predicted.
As the ability to predict a mechanical mishap can prevent a large-scale blackout, it is very important for economic and safety reasons.
Preventing large-scale blackouts, enhancing weak electricity networks and linking electricity networks with those for new and renewable energy are some major purposes of smart grid technology. The 2003 blackout in the United States caused tremendous damage, and this shows once again that old and worn-out electricity delivery networks in our country also need to be renovated.
As interest in the environment such as global warming grows, there is also a huge interest in new and renewable energy, such as solar energy, wind, bioenergy and fuel cells.
The existing electricity networks are one-way channels that deliver electricity from a power plant to customers. For instance, in a water power plant, water runs one-way from the dam to the river.
But they will no longer be one-way networks if electricity is generated in several places, such as wind power plants in Daegwallyeong, Gwangwon Province, Saemangeum on the coast of the Yellow Sea or solar energy power plants on Jeju Island.
If new energy is linked to existing energy networks, it is like many fish swimming against the flow toward a dam. That is why it is absolutely necessary to run the system in a smart way, considering two-way currents.
Using smart grid technology, electric cars can recharge on energy, just as ordinary cars fill their tanks at gas stations, increasing efficiency of energy use in general.
The smart grid is at the center of the seven technologies designated by the G8 to change the world, because it integrates the rest. Therefore, it is even more meaningful for Korea to be designated as a leading country in the field of smart grid technology.
The globe is becoming warmer and warmer and the interest in the environment is growing accordingly.
In this era, our country as a leader in developing the smart grid technology which will help lead green growth can become stronger by establishing an international status that matches our economic power, dominating the overseas industrial market and sending our talents abroad.
*The writer is a professor at the Sungkyunkwan University School of Information and Communication.
by Kim Chul-hwan