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South Korea Embarks On An Ambitious Renewable Energy Plan

South Korea has made public a long-term energy plan that stipulates a shift to more renewable energy at the expense of fossil fuels and nuclear power.

The Korea Herald reports the plan envisages renewable power to rise to 40 percent of the country’s energy mix in 2034, up from 15.1 percent currently. In the meantime, the share of liquefied natural gas-fired power generation should decline from 32.3 percent to 31 percent.

At the same time, all coal-fired power plants whose 30-year lifecycles expire by 2034 will be retired. This makes about 30 plants, out a total of 60 currently in operation. An earlier report in Korean media said that some 24 coal-fired plants will be converted to gas.

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The share of nuclear energy will also be reduced substantially by 2034.

Currently, LNG is the biggest portion of South Korea’s energy mix, followed by coal, at 27.1 percent of the total. Nuclear energy accounts for 19.2 percent of energy generation. By 2030, plans have nuclear’s share in the mix shrink to 11.7 percent, and then falling further to 9.9 percent by 2034. Also by 2030, the share of renewables should rise to 33.1 percent before hitting the 40-percent goal four years later.

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Despite the government’s ambitious renewable energy goals, it appears its support for renewable energy source is disproportionate: a recent report from a nonprofit group suggests that South Korea is subsidizing biomass projects so heavily that it has begun to affect solar and wind.

The report, by Seoul-based Solutions for our Climate, said the heavy subsidies for biomass—which is considered carbon neutral by Korean legislation—have led to sharp declines in the price of renewable energy certificates, which has made utilities think twice about investing in new solar or wind power capacity. RECs are issued by the government to utilities that include renewables in their portfolio. Utilities developing biomass generation projects were getting a lot more RECs than those focusing on solar and wind.

This suggests the shift will not be smooth sailing, but it is certainly an ambitious shift for one of the largest energy importers in Asia and the world.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

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Leave a comment
  • James Hopf on May 27 2020 said:
    If Korea really cared about public health, the environment, and global warming, they wouldn't be planning to cut both coal and nuclear in half (roughly). They would instead keep all the nuclear and eliminate coal entirely. There is universal scientific consensus that coal is many orders of magnitude worse than nuclear. Gas is also worse than nuclear, with respect to the environment, and is far more expensive.

    And to add insult to injury, the article tells me that they've been focusing on pushing biomass, which is dirty, environmentally harmful, and NOT climate neutral. Korea must be taking advice from the Germans.... Biomass is far worse than nuclear, environmentally speaking.

    I thank this article for bringing to light the ugly truth about how Korea's "renewables push" is largely focused on (dirty) biomass. I had thought that is was all about solar and wind.

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