Despite long heat wave, electricity in good supply

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Despite long heat wave, electricity in good supply

Despite the government’s claim that giving a discount on household electricity would result in a nationwide power shortage, the electricity reserve rate remained healthy all weekend long.

The electricity reserve rate indicates how much extra electricity is available compared to demand. The higher the reserve rate, the more electricity available for distribution.

The electricity reserve rate for Saturday was 12.2 percent, which means there were 9 million kilowatts available, compared to 8.5 percent and 7.9 percent on the previous days, according to the Korea Power Exchange (KPX), which oversees the nation’s electricity market.

If the reserve rate falls below 5 million kilowatts, an alert is issued. If it falls below 3 million, it may lead to power cuts.

On Sunday, the rate was expected to be 11.7 percent, or 8.1 million kilowatts, with the peak hour estimated to be between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. The maximum power demand then was expected to be 69 million kilowatts, while the country can provide a total of 81 million kilowatts.

Previously, officials at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy voiced support for the existing progressive electricity billing system on households because, they said, cutting the rate would result in electricity shortages, especially with the excessive usage of air-conditioners during this summer’s prolonged heat wave.

The original progressive billing system demands each household to pay a higher price per unit of electricity if they use more. This system easily results in so-called electricity bill “bombs,” which can occur for instance if one turns on the air conditioner for several hours. No such rule applies to the industry or business sectors.

Responding to public complaints over the billing system, the ruling party and the government decided Thursday to provide a temporary discount on electricity bills for three months between July and September.

Despite the ministry’s warning, however, the electricity supply remained stable during the weekend. The rate cut was estimated to raise the electricity demand by only 780,000 kilowatts during the peak hour.

“Electricity consumption by households takes up only about 15 percent of total usage,” said Cho Seong-bong, a professor of economics at Soongsil University.

“So while people use air conditioners more because of the heat wave and cheaper bills,” he said, “it doesn’t have a major affect.”

On Thursday, Korea’s power consumption hit a record-high of 84.97 million kilowatts between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m.

This was the third time last week that the record for electricity demand was broken.

“The third week of August may show high electricity demand,” said the ministry of trade official.

“We are going to do our best to provide a stable supply of electricity by monitoring the condition and the operation of the generator.”


BY JIN EUN-SOO, KIM MIN-SANG [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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