Heat is on and blackouts are possible

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Heat is on and blackouts are possible

Korea is running out of electricity as daily energy consumption spiked seven times in July alone, according to the Knowledge Economy Ministry and the Korea Power Exchange yesterday.

Korea’s energy consumption reached an all-time summer high last Thursday afternoon when 6,762.9 kilowatts were used, outpacing last summer’s record of 6,321.2 kilowatts.

The all-time daily high for power consumption, 6,896.3 kilowatts, was recorded last Jan. 13, and the ministry expects that figure to be outpaced soon as the sultry weather continues.

Korea has now entered the risky stage of possibly requiring blackouts this summer, a ministry official said. “August tends to be the month with the highest demand of air-conditioning,” he said.

The heat wave has continued since July 18, and in some areas the mercury didn’t drop below 25 degrees Celsius, bringing the country unaccustomed tropical nights. In fact, from July 1 to July 20, electricity demand surged 9.3 percent year-on-year, mainly boosted by a rise in industrial use led by the economic recovery. Industrial energy demand has been recording double-digit increases from the previous year since November.

The ministry is keeping a close eye on consumption as it expects this summer’s energy consumption to reach 70.7 million kilowatts in total, which is an 11.8 percent increase from last year. Total supply, however, is 75.3 million kilowatts, which is only a 3.7 percent on-year increase.

Meanwhile, industrialist are complaining that Korea’s relatively low electricity charges for consumers is contributing to the energy shortage. Knowledge Economy Minister Choi Kyung-hwan told reporters recently that “electricity prices will inevitably have to increase” though he said he didn’t want to burden low-income households.


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

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[취재일기] 전력난 … 이러다 선풍기도 못 틀라


이달 초 지식경제부와 한국전력공사는 여름 나기 비상대책을 마련했다. 최대 전력수요가 1년 전보다 11.8%나 늘어난 7070만㎾에 이를 것으로 예상됐기 때문이다. 이에 비해 전력공급 능력은 지난해보다 3.7%밖에 늘지 않아 7530만㎾에 그칠 전망이다. 영월 천연가스발전소, 판교 열병합발전소, 신고리원전 1호기 등 아직 시운전 중인 발전기까지 총동원해도 그 정도다.

예상 밖의 사고도 자꾸 불거지고 있다. 지난 7일엔 인천 화력복합발전기에 불이 났다. 그 이틀 전엔 삼랑진 양수발전소에도 불이 났다. 보수를 서두르고 있지만 최대 전력 수요가 최고조에 이르는 다음 달 초까지 가동이 불투명한 상태다. 두 곳의 발전용량은 45만㎾로 정부가 쥐어짜낸 예비전력량의 10%에 이른다. 발전기를 총동원하다 보면 이런 사고가 일어나는 법이다.

반면 전력수요는 꺾일 줄 모른다. 이달 들어서만 최대 수요 기록을 일곱 번이나 갈아치웠다.

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