Exposition part of vision to develop global hub
Kepco, the nation’s largest state-run energy company, moved its headquarters to Naju, South Jeolla, last year in hopes of developing the small rural city into an international hub for electricity-related technologies.
The company is in the process of building the Bitgaram Energy Valley, and in only six months, it has attracted some 57 companies to locate offices and research and development centers in Naju. The company has exceeded its initial goal of attracting 50 companies by the end of this year.
The company hopes global power generation and related companies will invest in Naju and start-ups in electricity technology will flock to the cluster, following the likes of Silicon Valley, the worldwide mecca for IT start-ups, and the Toyota city of Aichi prefecture, which is the center of the Japanese auto industry.
Companies already stationed in the energy valley include Hyosung and LS Industrial Systems (LSIS), two local conglomerates specializing in electrical systems and parts, and ABB Korea, a Seoul branch of the Swiss power and automation technology developer.
So far, collaborations have brought in investments worth
247.6 billion won ($210.2 million), and hired about 2,370 people in the region. LSIS invested 60 billion won to build large-capacity energy storage system (ESS) facilities and solar power technology trial centers in Gwangju, the valley’s first project.
As the second project, the local electrical company and ABB Korea, the first foreign company to invest in the Naju valley, will jointly invest in constructions of an ESS system, with large-scale batteries and high-voltage direct-current electricity transmission systems.
ABB Korea’s other interest is to help foster start-ups and small companies into hidden champions of the new energy businesses via mentoring and technology transfers.
“We hope to see large and small players in different hard and software sectors in the energy business communicate and deliver more collaborated projects, which will create synergy,” a Kepco spokesperson said. “We also hope more small and midsize companies that are often suppliers of large companies will join in the Naju valley [project], along with LSIS and Hyosung.”
The company aims to bring 500 energy companies and create up to 30,000 jobs by 2020, which it hopes will help boost the local economy in Gwangju and South Jeolla.
The South Jeolla regions traditionally have grown in the agriculture and food industries thanks to their fertile fields.
However, as many rural regions, including South Jeolla, have seen a decline in their young population and rise in their senior population in the past few decades, the Korean government moved Kepco’s headquarters to Naju to boost population and investment there, an attempt to replicate Japan’s Koromo city, which saw a quadrupled population and improved social infrastructure after Toyota moved its headquarters to the city in the early 1960s.
BY KIM JI-YOON [firstname.lastname@example.org]