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Gov’t says peak power demand will be lower

Dec 15,2017
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The government has lowered its forecast of Korea’s maximum power demand, a partial rationale for phasing out nuclear and thermal power plants.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on Thursday announced its energy supply plan through 2031 that included reducing nuclear and thermal power supplies and replacing them with environment-friendly energy sources including liquefied natural gas (LNG) and renewable energy.

This includes downsizing the number of nuclear plants operating from the current 24 to 18 by 2030. Among four thermal plants awaiting approval, the government has decided to allow two to be built as planned - in Samcheok, Gangwon - while two others in Dangjin, South Chungcheong, will be changed to LNG plants.

“We have accepted the demand of Samcheok residents who asked for the plants since the construction site is an abandoned mine that only creates dust,” said Park Seong-taek, the ministry’s energy industry policy director general. “Converting them to LNG wasn’t possible due to the geographical distance with consumers.”

Energy supplied from nuclear plants will be reduced by 2030 from the current 30.3 percent of Korea’s total to 23.9 percent. Currently 24 nuclear power plants generate 22.5 gigawatts of power. In 2030 that will be reduced to 20.4 gigawatts.

The government will be shutting two thermal power plants reducing its energy contribution from 45.3 percent to 36.1 percent. The contribution of LNG powered plants will be raised from 16.9 percent to 18.8 percent while renewable energy’s contribution will see a significant hike from 6.2 percent to 20 percent.

In order to increase the contribution of renewable energy sources, the government has decided to increase its share of energy capacity from a current 9.7 percent to 33.7 percent by 2030. The previous government was focused on steady supplies of energy and increasing the number of nuclear power plants. The Moon government wants to wean Korea off nuclear for safety reasons.

The government expressed confidence about meeting electricity demand without building additional power plants by predicting a lowered maximum power demand in 2030 as a result of technical advancements related to the so-called fourth industrial revolution technologies such as big data analysis and Internet-of-Things technologies as well as growing demand for electric cars.

According to the report, the Moon government estimates that the maximum power demand in 2030 will be 100.5 gigawatts, which is 12.7 gigawatts or 11 percent less than the 113.2 gigawatt projected two years ago by the Park Geun-hye administration.

The government kept the reserve capacity at 22 percent, which means there should be capacity of 22 percent more than peak demand. Previously there was speculation that the government might lower the reserve ratio to 20 percent.

The government said electric bills will not see significant rises by 2030, estimating a 10.9 percent increase from the current level. This is lower than the 13.9 percent increase that electricity bills have seen in the past 13 years.

Assuming that a family of four pays 55,000 won ($50.52) a month to use 350 kilowatts an hour, their monthly bill would increase by 720 won a year on average until 2030.

During his presidential campaign earlier this year, Moon championed the decommissioning of nuclear power plants and thermal power plants in the wake of a September 2016 earthquake in Gyeongju, the most powerful earthquake in Korea’s modern history. Also, concerns about pollution from thermal plants have raised demands for a more environmentally-friendly policy.

BY LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]