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Overlooking mistakes

June 15,2017
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As I arrived on Gapa Island via ferry from Moseulpo in Jeju Island, sky-blue electric vehicles caught my eyes. Promotional videos and documentaries on Gapa Island always features a scene of the car moving along the beach. The small island, just 0.83 square kilometers (205 acres) in area, has four electric cars and a number of charging stations across the island.

However, during my two-day stay on the island, I never saw the electric cars moving. It is a small island, and you can reach almost everywhere by foot. But when locals work or transport heavy items, they use old diesel vehicles or motorcycles. The bicycle rental center was full of tourists. It was quite different from how I imagined the paradise of electric vehicles and bicycles would be, as the island produces most of its electricity through wind and solar power generation.

As the JoongAng Ilbo reported on the high dependency on diesel power generation in Gapa Island, which is an “energy independent island,” we received emails from readers from other regions. There are many renewable energy projects that are in name only all across the country.

Many of them were pushed by energy-related public corporations or local government offices without sufficient research. They were rushed to begin “before the term of the chief ends” or “before the state budget on renewable energy goes to other fields.”

The same mistakes wouldn’t have been repeated if problems revealed in initial renewable energy programs were investigated and improved before expanding to other regions. The projects were rushed and copied, and when problems arose, they were covered up.

The Research on Feasibility for Microgrid that Jeju Energy Corporation submitted to Jeju Island authorities in December 2016 discusses the success of Gapa Island and Gasa Island without mentioning any concerns.

The energy experts must know the problems that anyone can see when visiting the islands, but they avoid discussing it. It is quite irresponsible for experts to pretend not to know the issues. If they really didn’t see the problems, it is more pathetic.

The expansion of renewable energy is the calling of the time. We cannot let the environment be destroyed, and fossil fuels will dry up eventually. Korea produces no oil, and it is more pressing for Korea to find alternative energy sources. But these “name-only” renewable energy projects will lead to the worst outcome of all: losing all the money and ruining the environment as well.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 14, Page 29

*The author is an industrial news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JEON YOUNG-SEON