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Flip-flopping on electricity

Aug 15,2017
In Greek mythology, Procrustes would invite guests to spend the night and then stretched or cut their legs to force them to fit the size of an iron bed. Korean authorities are turning Proscrustean on energy policy, forcing conditions to fit the wishes of the president. The government last week held a meeting to draft the 15-year energy supply outline. It proposed cutting the electricity reserve rate target by up to 2 percentage points from the current 22 percent. The government thinks the country could do without two reactors if the reserve requirement is lowered.

The policy commission cited weakening in economic growth for the cut in reserve threshold. Additional facilities capable to generating from 5 to 10 gigawatts of electricity would be needed until 2030 to keep up the supply up while powering down the aged grids. It argued that power can be sufficiently generated by renewable energy sources or natural gas.

The government’s 15-year energy supply plan is revised every two years. The overall direction does not suddenly change in such a short period. Based on forecasts so far, nuclear reactors were responsible for 30 percent of power supply and coal-fueled thermal stations 40 percent. It has been a sensible and economic option, given that Korea gets 97 percent of its sources to generate power from overseas. Renewables are ideal, but solar and wind power is not reliable around the Korean Peninsula. The government has been contradicting itself by claiming that energy supplies are stable, or even more than enough, while ordering manufacturers to cut back electricity use and pushing down reserve requirement ratio.

The independent commission designed to gauge public opinion on whether to permanently stop the construction of two new reactors has decided to hire a polling company to carry out the survey. The scenario appears to be moving in one direction — a nuclear phase-out, as promised by President Moon Jae-in during campaign. The fate of the country’s energy should not be left up to the whims of a government with a five-year tenure.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 14, Page 26