Transferring cost burden

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Transferring cost burden

 The cost from the controversial nuclear reactor phase-out will begin to be translated in public. Under the revised outline for electricity billing from the Ministry of Energy and the Korea Electric Power Corp., electricity bills will hinge on fuel prices over a three-month period. Climate change and environmental costs will also be reflected.

The bill is unlikely to go up immediately. But power rates will become influenced if oil prices surge. The government argues the changes are to reflect market factors. But if not for the nuclear phase-out, such changes wouldn’t be necessary.

The electricity billing change came after the government set the next 15-year energy supply outline. Nuclear reactors will be reduced to 17 units by 2034 after peaking at 26 in 2024 as new constructions will be banned and aged units won’t have their lives extended. The country will no longer have any reactors once every life design age ends in 2083. Thirty coal-powered stations active for more than 30 years will also become unplugged.

Instead, the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable energies will be increased. LNG-powered capacity in generating electricity will be bolstered to 59.1 gigawatts (GW) per hour in 2034 from this year’s 41.3 GW per hour. Renewable capacity will jump to 77.8 GW per hour in 2034 from 20.1 GW per hour in 2030. Korea’s energy sourcing base will be realigned to costlier LNG and renewables from cheap nuclear energy.

LNG prices have decreased due to a global economic slump and shale gas boom. But they may spike depending on demand, geopolitical changes and resource politicking. The cost of climate change and environmental costs would be separately billed on consumers.

Proponents of a nuclear phase-out claimed the policy has the backing of the public as it is for safety concerns and won’t affect electricity bills. But four surveys showed 72.8 percent still approve of nuclear reactors.

The government argues Korea’s power rates are too cheap. Household bills are just a third of the rates in Germany. But that was possible because of Korea’s nuclear-generating technology built over the last 60 years. Germany excels in wind power. But people are increasingly pained by costly electricity bills. President Moon Jae-in vowed carbon neutrality by 2050. But without employment of emission-free nuclear reactors, that goal cannot be achieved. Policymakers must carry out realistic policies to have the backing of the people.
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