Despite lack of plan B, electricity hike ruled out
Does the government have any way of tackling the energy shortage and averting future blackouts besides asking consumers and industries to cut back on their usage?
Since the nationwide blackout on Sept. 15 last year, the government has for the third time introduced an emergency measure to try and stave off another catastrophe during the cold winter months, when demand traditionally surges.
Although the plan for this winter is more detailed than before, the government is taking flak for again having to resort to last-minute, stop-gap measures.
“It’s true that our plans focus more on cutting energy than increasing efficiency,” said a high-ranking official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
Park Seong-taek, manager?of the ministry’s energy industries team, added that, “although the situation will be not as critical next year, we’ll still struggle to stay above the electricity reserve until next winter.”
“But in 2014, there shouldn’t be any ‘emergency measures’ pressuring people [households and industries] into cutting energy use,” he added.
Park said the construction of five power-generating plants with a combined capacity of 7 million kilowatts will be completed next year, and another 10 million kilowatts of production will be added by 2014.
According to the original plan, Korea should have had 5 million kilowatts more electricity in reserve this year, before plant construction was hit by a series of delays.
“Resistance from local residents was also much fiercer than we imagined,” Park said, adding that it will seek greater cooperation with local people in the future before choosing sites.
Frequent stoppages at nuclear power plants this year and last have caused the public to doubt the reliability of this form of power generation, compounding fears of radioactive leaks.
There were 161 malfunction cases at nuclear power plants this year as of October, up from 117 last year.
This month alone, three nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 3,000 megawatts of electricity were halted, causing the ministry to devise stricter measures to cut individual energy consumption.
Meanwhile, the government said it would not raise the price of electricity any further this year to deter usage.
“We’re not discussing another electricity price hike,” said Lee Gwan-seob, director general at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s energy resource division.
Electricity retails for around 90 percent of its production cost, making this a money-loser for the state.
The government puts a bigger priority on stabilizing consumer prices and helping businesses stay competitiveness by providing them with cheap power.
Kim Hwang-sik said yesterday that the electricity consumption per capita has doubled in the past decade, a yearly rate of growth six times higher than the OECD average.
He said there is a strong argument for raising the price of electricity “in principle.”
“However, we should be careful about doing this so as to minimize the burden on household finances and to help industries stay afloat,” he said.
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy is set to appoint a new president of Korean Electric Power Corporation, which controls the nation’s electricity supply, before the presidential election on Dec. 19.
It stopped accepting applications for the position yesterday.
Former chief Kim Joong-kyum resigned last week.
By Lee Sun-min [firstname.lastname@example.org ]
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