Declare an electricity emergency

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Declare an electricity emergency

The warning has been issued again. The nation must be prepared for “unprecedented” power shortage this summer. On top of the well-known reasons - demand exceeding supply, shutdowns of aging reactors and delayed construction of new ones - there have already been disruptions due to the discovery of substandard parts with fabricated test certificates.

Of 23 reactors that account for 33 percent of the country’s electricity, 10 are inactive. That would reduce power capacity by 77 million kilowatts this summer, 2 million kilowatts short of meeting the estimated maximum demand of 79 million kilowatts. Rotating blackouts or restrained transmission may be inevitable.

Scandals involved in supply contracts are generating heavy prices. If disruptions at nuclear reactors continue until September, the country would have to pay an extra 1 trillion won ($88.68 billion) to run plants powered by expensive liquefied natural gas. Electricity bills would naturally go up, burdening consumers.

But we cannot afford to complain about the high social cost of scandals in component supplies at nuclear reactors. We must find ways to accommodate ourselves to the reality of a power shortage. The government must act fast to replace faulty parts in reactors and accelerate construction of the thermal power station. But these actions cannot guarantee the security of power supplies. Even if authorities announce a state of emergency, the country may not be able to safely get past the summer peak. The government must do all it can to maximize capacity and consider running emergency backup generating stations across the nation.

At the same time, it must seek cooperation from the public. All of us must do our part if we are to avoid a catastrophic disaster from a major outage and blackout. Consumers may have to put up with some discomforts in order to reduce their use of electricity.

The industrial sector, which uses half of the country’s power supply, would have to cut back by closing down factory lines during the weekend. Industrial activity may have to be adjusted through holiday breaks.

Meanwhile, the government would have to promise accountability for the inconveniences caused by wrongdoing in the supply system. It is the least our elected public officials should do for all the troubles consumers will have to go through.
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