Here comes the billElectricity bills will go up from October for the first time in eight years. The government has already lifted discounts on electric vehicles, traditional marketplaces and residential power savings. The government claims the normalization in the power bill is inevitable due to a spike in fuel costs. But the bigger cause lies in its policy of phasing out nuclear reactors. The rigid and hasty policy adds burden to the people.
Experts have long warned that a decline in the use of cheap nuclear energy would harden the lives of the people due to inevitable rises in electricity costs. The government refuted that it would not need to raise electricity bills, but now the rise no longer can be suppressed.
State utility Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) which had maintained operating income in billions of dollars a year reversed to the red since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017. Kepco raked in a profit of 1.46 trillion won ($1.24 billion) in the first quarter of 2017. But in the fourth quarter of the year, the black turned to a red of 129.4 billion won. This year’s operating loss is projected at 4.4 trillion won.
Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), operator of nuclear reactors, is estimated to have to lost 1.4 trillion won from early retirement of two aged nuclear reactors and cancellation of the construction of five reactors. Much of the loss would have to be covered by electricity fees under the revised decree.
That’s not all. According to a study by the National Assembly Budget Office data, accumulated losses from the government’s nuclear phase-out and shift to renewables would reach 58.05 trillion won in five years, 177.4 trillion won in 10 years and 1,067.4 trillion won in 30 years. When counting in the opportunity cost from loss of overseas nuclear plant construction projects the country could have won if not for its nuclear phase-out policy, the impact on the economy would be colossal. Environmental loss also has been huge as the government has been damaging mountains to make room for solar panels.
Korea does not have a plausible carbon-saving option other than nuclear reactors. Given the increase in power demand in the digital age, higher electricity bill could cut into national competitiveness. All the new industries such as autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence and big data require huge amounts of electricity.
The government’s nuclear phase-out policy based on political judgements instead of science must stop now. Otherwise, the bill could land heavily on the future generation. Presidential candidates from rivalling parities must present workable solution on nuclear reactor policy for the sake of the country.