Power adjustments may be made for fine dust

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Power adjustments may be made for fine dust

To address fine-dust pollution, which has reached crisis concentrations in recent weeks, the government is drafting policies that could reduce the operation of coal-fired power plants and increase the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) power plants.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Monday said it is considering a change in the fine-dust trigger levels for powering down coal plants to 80 percent capacity. It is also considering powering down more plants in the event that pollution breaks the predetermined level.

These changes and others may be incorporated into the ninth Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand 2019-2033. It will be released at the end of 2019. The last plan, which was set to run from 2017 to 2031, included the dismantling of Korea’s nuclear power plants and the increased use of renewable energy.

According to the ministry, thermal power plants are currently powered down for two days when the fine-dust concentration is 50 micrograms per square meter or more. The government said it is looking into adjusting the minimum needed to initiate the power-down process.

It is also expanding the number of plants covered. At present, 35 plants out of the total 61 are powered down in the event a critical level is crossed. The government said it will expand the number of plants covered to 49.

The ministry said it plans to convince thermal power plant operators in the greater Seoul area and South Chungcheong to convert their energy source from coal to LNG. As of today, six have agreed to convert to LNG, while the ministry hopes to expand the number.

However, increasing the number of LNG power plants could result in an increase of power bills. Under the previous plan two years ago, the government estimated that power bills would rise 10.9 percent by 2030 as a result of the increased use of renewable energy and the reduced use of coal.

The government said it is investing 11.5 trillion won ($10.1 billion) in the upgrading of environment systems that will reduce the emissions of pollutants, including sulfur, by 2030.

It argued that it has already been quite successful in addressing the fine-dust issue. While the power produced from thermal plants has increased from 213.8 terawatt hours in 2016 to 238.2 terawatt hours, fine dust emitted has fallen from 30,679 tons to 22,869 tons during the same period.

The ministry refuted claims that the administration’s policy of reducing nuclear power generation has contributed to the worsening air pollution.

Vice Minister Cheong Seung-il said the reason for higher pollution relates to the approval of 11 new thermal plants, generating 9.6 gigawatts of power, by the previous Park Geun-hye administration and has nothing to do with this administration’s nuclear energy policy.

“Only seven of the thermal power plants that have been approved by the past government utilize the top environment management systems,” Cheong said. “Our plan of shutting down 10 coal-powered thermal plants that are 30 years or older by 2022 is going as planned.”

The Moon government has already closed four outdated thermal plants among the 10 planned.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]
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