Energy offenders earn big by saving electricity

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Energy offenders earn big by saving electricity

Some 1,300 factories, large discount markets and office buildings - which often use massive amounts of energy - have saved electricity worth 1.5 trillion won ($1.27 billion) over the past eight months, from last November to July.

The companies opted to cut back energy use when electricity prices were high, later selling that saved energy back on the electricity trading market.

The electricity trading market was launched last November.

Before, only state-run organizations like the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) were allowed to trade electricity.

But in 2013, the Electricity Business Act opened the market to the private sector, and participating companies have started to see profits.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, which developed the program, said Wednesday that each energy consumer is matched with a so-called energy trading firm to design customized programs to help them save power.

In the system, a factory or commercial building notifies the Korea Power Exchange of its energy consumption goals for each day.

At the end of each month, the exchange gives the company money back based on how much energy it saved from its usual usage.

Each company in turn pays 30 percent of those earnings to the energy trading firm that helped them cut back.

Of the 1,300 participants, industrial facilities - mostly manufacturers and waste disposal companies - were the largest group, accounting for 48 percent, followed by big and small retail stores, at 40 percent, and agricultural producers, with 12 percent.

Steel, paper and chemical makers were the largest beneficiaries in the industrial sector in terms of revenue from energy savings.

In one case, a steelmaker based in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, which requested anonymity, estimates it will earn 2.3 billion won by November of this year, having started the program when it launched last year.

The company now partially closes down the latter part of its production line at times when electricity prices are high.

The initiative helped the steelmaker slim its May electricity bill 10.2 percent year-on-year, to 9.5 billion won.

With the revenue, the steelmaker plans to become even more energy efficient, switching bulbs inside the factories to LED lights and installing energy-efficient power inverters on major machines.

The trading market is still small, with only 15 electricity trade support firms. But the total electricity traded so far is equivalent to the amount of energy a small metropolitan area like Sejong City consumes for four months, at 69,618 megawatt-hours.

Following the success, the ministry plans to certify 10 additional electricity trade support firms by end of the year to encourage more manufacturers and commercial buildings to participate in the market.

Globally, the privately run energy trading market is active in the United States and some European countries like the United Kingdom and France, as part of those countries’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions and boost energy efficiency by 20 percent by 2020.

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