Energy industry gathers in Gwangju for Bixpo

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Energy industry gathers in Gwangju for Bixpo


Dignitaries pose for a photo to mark the opening of the 2017 Bitgaram International Expo of Electric Power Technology on Wednesday in Gwangju. The thee-day event includes representatives from more than 260 energy companies displaying the latest technologies in energy management. [YONHAP]

GWANGJU - The 2017 Bitgaram International Expo of Electric Power Technology (Bixpo) kicked off on Wednesday, bringing representatives from more than 260 energy companies around the world to this southwestern Korean city to exchange ideas on energy management.

The three-day event hosted by the Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) is in its third year and includes the participation of tech heavyweights like General Electric, Huawei, Hewlett-Packard and Nokia. Each company has a booth to display its latest technology to visitors.

During his opening speech, Cho Hwan-eik, president of Kepco, noted significant shifts in the energy industry, calling the “fourth industrial revolution” a bearer of change.

“Nuclear power and fossil fuels have assumed a lion’s share of the energy mix for more than half a century,” he said. “But now, we expect the share of renewable sources like wind and solar to increase significantly.”

Cho’s remarks were an apparent reference to President Moon Jae-in’s ambitious green energy initiative to raise the amount of power generated in the country by renewable sources to 20 percent by 2030. Currently, renewable energy makes up just 4 percent of the country’s power supply, while nuclear energy comprises nearly a third.

The government has been adamant about phasing out the country’s nuclear reactors, with the goal of reducing the number to 14 by 2038 from the current 24. It will only continue with construction of four reactors, two of which are nearly complete and two of which are about 30 percent done.

On the first day of the expo, Don Tapscott, author of the book “Blockchain Revolution” and director of the Blockchain Research Institute, delivered a keynote address explaining the technology and the effects it could have on people’s lives in the future.

Defining the blockchain as a record-keeping structure that does not require a middleman, Tapscott singled out bitcoin as the perfect application of the technology, as its currency system that does not require bankers or financial institutions to act as mediators.

He discussed how the blockchain could potentially be used in power distribution, with people buying power directly from suppliers for individual home appliances based on need rather than having a utility company like Kepco feed power to a building.

“Envision a world where your washing machine conducts an auction for power and there is a market not similar to the one that Kepco is building,” he said. “When the washing machine finds the cheapest source of power, it purchases the power, and when a lightbulb pays for the power, its reputation is enhanced as a trustworthy device.”

Tapscott said with a blockchain, there could be “trillions of transactions that would be happening real time,” with people buying watts of power to operate their devices. “The only technology that would enable that to occur is the blockchain,” he said.

Kepco said in a statement that it hopes to “provide participants and professionals with the opportunity to share the latest trends and strategies regarding new technologies in the power sector” through Bixpo. The trade portion will showcase new technology, while a job fair will include 60 companies in the energy industry conducing on-site interviews.

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