Ministry gets cash to juggle energy usage

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Ministry gets cash to juggle energy usage

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s budget for controlling electricity demand was raised to 404.6 billion won ($370.9 million) so it can provide more financial incentives for businesses that temporarily halt work at their plants during peak times so as not to overtax the national grid.

Originally, the ministry planned to use just 66.6 billion won this year.

The move came a day after two nuclear reactors in the southwest were shut down after it was discovered that the documents for thousands of parts had been fabricated, ramping up fears of power outages in the cold winter months. The two reactors account for 5 percent of the nation’s electricity supply.

The two reactors, Yeonggwang No. 5 and 6, are deemed to have fallen short of safety standards as so many of their parts are missing authentic certification proving they are suitable for use in nuclear reactors.

As the government will not authorize their operations to be resumed until all the parts are replaced, which is expected to take months, the government and other energy corporations are rolling up their sleeves to fight possible power shortages.

“We need to save power wherever possible, no matter how much or how little, in both the public or private sector to brave the winter,” Knowledge Minister Hong Suk-woo said on Monday.

The Korea Meteorological Administration forecast last month that the average daily temperature this winter will be lower than last year. According to the Korea Electric Power Corporation, every time the mercury drops by one degree Celsius it puts an additional strain on the electricity grid to the tune of 500,000 kilowatts.

This could see demand pass 80 million kilowatts a day from next month, energy companies say. The peak rate in the last six months has been 74.3 million kilowatts in August.

The ministry said that if the two reactors are not back online by the end of the year, the reserve could fall as low as 300,000 kilowatts in January. This puts it on par with the level that caused automatic blackouts in parts of the country on Sept. 15 last year.

The government also said it will ask companies in both the public and private sector to halt operations at their factories to disperse demand and make it more manageable.

“We need to control industrial demand and ask households to cut down on their individual energy consumption,” said Lee Gwan-seob, managing director of the Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s energy resources division.

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

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