Feeling the heat

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Feeling the heat

The unprecedented streak of high temperatures has sent daily power use to record levels. The government has upped its peak power demand projection from the 88.3 million kilowatts estimated earlier this month to 90.4 million kilowatts. Demand has long exceeded the optimal reserve level of 10 million kilowatts. People have become jittery about a power shortage because the government has missed its energy estimates.

The government says the heat wave had not been foreseen. But it is the government’s duty to ensure that there is a stable power supply. It raises questions that the government might have been conservative in its projections in order to provide grounds and reasoning for the president’s campaign pledge to phase out nuclear reactors.

When the government announced its three-year energy plan based on demand and supply estimates last year, it said the previous outline (under the previous conservative government) had not reflected concerns from civilian voices such as environmental groups and the energy sector. But the incumbent government also has not been transparent and engaging in its energy policy. The Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power held a sudden board meeting to decide the closure of the Wolsong 1 unit well ahead of when it needed to be shut down.

Even as society has become anxious over energy security, the Blue House and government are busy defending their policies. President Moon Jae-in criticized the media for “outrageous distortion” in reports claiming that nuclear reactor operations had increased due to the heat wave.

What the media questions is whether the country can ensure a stable energy supply without nuclear reactors for now and in the long run. Paik Un-gyu, minister of industry and energy, spoke about the need to lower the reserve ratio. Yet under his helm, the energy reserve ratio has been kept above 12 percent. The government must redraw its energy plan based on reality and not hopes, and put its policy of phasing out nuclear reactors up for public debate.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 26, Page 30
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