Power usage spikes above gov’t projections

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Power usage spikes above gov’t projections


A screen at Korea Electric Power Corporation’s main office in Myeong-dong, central Seoul, shows the reserve margin for electricity falling on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

Electricity demand in Korea is going through the roof in the midst of a heat wave, raising concerns that supplies may not be sufficient.

According to the Korea Power Exchange, electricity use in Korea reached 92.48 million kilowatts as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

The Korea Power Exchange projected that the maximum demand during the peak hour from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday would be about 90.70 million kilowatts, equivalent to a record reached on Monday.

“The government raised the [estimated] maximum power demand by 2.6 million kilowatts from 88.08 million kilowatts last Friday to 90.70 million due to the recent heat wave, which is at a catastrophic level,” explained an official from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

Previously, the government estimated the maximum electricity demand for this summer at 88.30 million kilowatts.

According to the ministry, average temperatures in eight major cities across the country rose by 2.2 degrees Celsius in the past couple of days. An increase of one degree Celsius pushes up the electricity demand by about 800,000 kilowatts, which means 2.2 degrees Celsius increase raised the demand by about 1.75 million kilowatts.

In addition to the heat, the government raised its expected maximum power demand to reflect a rise in the number of people working longer hours before they leave for the summer holidays. The government set July 25 to Aug. 12 as the summer holiday season.

As a result of the tremendous rise in demand, the reserve margin, which stood at above 30 percent on Sunday, fell to 7.69 percent or 7.08 million kilowatts.

The reserve margin represents the amount of electricity being generated that is not being used. The electricity supply is considered stable when the margin is above 10 percent.

The margin fell below 10 percent on Monday to 8.4 percent when the load at the peak hour soared to 9.07 million kilowatts.

Although concerns of possible blackouts are growing, the government thinks the situation is not yet at a critical level.

“There are many options for us to increase the supply of electricity and we have yet to go through all of them,” said an official from the Korea Power Exchange. “There is no need to take a margin of 7 to 8 percent too seriously.”

The government previously considered asking companies to reduce their energy use but decided to not go through with it on Tuesday.

“Demand is likely to increase, but from the perspective of supply, it’s still at a manageable level,” said the Energy Ministry in a statement.

BY CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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