Emphasis on renewables in energy plan

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Emphasis on renewables in energy plan


Left, residents of Uljin County, North Gyeongsang, protest the government’s decision to phase out nuclear power during a public hearing on the government’s energy plan held at Coex, southern Seoul, on Friday. Initially the third and fourth Shin Hanul nuclear reactors were to be built in Uljin. However, the Moon Jae-in government canceled the construction. Right, a different set of protesters hold a banner that objects to the building of nuclear reactors at the same event. [YONHAP]

The government aggressively raised the production target for renewable energy to 30 to 35 percent of all Korean energy sources by 2040, a draft master plan showed Friday.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Friday, this is up from its current share of production, which is 7 to 8 percent.

Last year, renewable energy accounted for 6.2 percent of all power generated in Korea. This was an increase from 5.6 percent in 2017. Coal fueled the largest segment of Korea’s energy, 41.9 percent, while liquefied natural gas (LNG) accounted for 26.8 percent. Nuclear power accounted for 23.4 percent, a drop from 26.8 percent in 2017. It was the lowest level, in fact, in 34 years. Nuclear plants provided 21.9 percent of all Korea’s power in 1984, as the nuclear industry was starting to grow.

The higher renewable energy target is in accordance with recommendations made by a task force of energy experts in February.

The government said it will drastically cut Korea’s dependence on nuclear power and fossil fuels while steadily increasing the production of environmentally friendly energy resources for sustainable growth.

“The new policy goal will focus on reforming the structure of energy demand instead of expanding supply,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that its master plan is focused on evolving a high-efficiency and low-consumption energy market.

The government plans on announcing the renewed master plan with details of the scope of reduction in energy supply later this year.

The master plan with 20-year goals is renewed every five years.

To fight fine dust air pollution and lower greenhouse gas emissions, the ministry said it will “boldly” cut coal power production by banning new plants and closing old facilities. It will limit the production capacity of existing coal power plants and increase taxation on their environmental effects.

The government will also look for ways to use LNG in more areas and stop construction of new nuclear reactors, the ministry said.

This is a big contrast with the goals announced in 2013. At that time, the government said it would increase nuclear power production from 26 percent to 29 percent of the total by 2035. The current ministry believes the 2013 plan “lacked fundamental solutions for the country’s people, safety and environment.”

The ministry announced earlier this year it wanted to build a so-called hydrogen economy, where hydrogen serves as the main energy source of power production, vehicles and more.

The ministry said it will foster promising new areas like the reactor decommissioning industry as a follow-up to the Moon administration’s nuclear phase-out policy.

The government estimates the country’s own domestic nuclear decommissioning market to be worth around 22.5 trillion won ($19.7 billion) by 2030, while the global market will total about 123 trillion won. It plans to create a cluster of small- and medium-sized enterprises specializing in nuclear decommissioning in the southeast region of the peninsula while adding 1,300 field specialists to the market by 2022.

As one of its first steps, the government in the second half of this year will be setting up a 50 billion won energy innovation growth fund.

Although the ministry did not mention details of future electricity costs in its draft master plan Friday, the government is expected to present a reformed energy cost policy for households before the second half of this year.

The ministry will revise the draft based on feedback from the public and present it before the cabinet for approval.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]
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