The Korean Government’s “full-steam ahead” move to become carbon neutral by the middle of the century received a big boost this month. Its two largest telecommunications companies launched substantial efforts to implement sustainable energy projects.

Just last week, the nation’s largest mobile carrier, SK Telecom Co., announced that it had signed a comprehensive deal with KEPCO—the state-backed utility Korea Electric Power Corporation—to increase its annual renewable energy acquisition to more than 44 gigawatt hours as part of its wide-ranging green initiatives. 

SK Telecom’s smaller rival LG Uplus Corporation also revealed that it had joined a government-led program to boost energy efficiency in industrial complexes.

Korea has been moving towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050 in order to move away from its traditional reliance on fossil fuels for power. Korea currently relies heavily on fossil-intensive energy supplies. Its core industries, led by manufacturing, petrochemicals, and steel, are among the highest emitters of carbon. Coal, meanwhile, accounts for more than 40 percent of the nation’s power supply as of 2019. Renewable energy sources, on the other hand, make up around 6.5 percent of the total power, while non-emitting sources such as nuclear make up another 26 percent. The rest comes from liquefied natural gas.

SK Telecom, together with its affiliates under the larger SK Group, last year signed onto the RE100 campaign, a global initiative that sets a 2050 target for 100 percent renewable power. It has already installed both wind and solar power supplies in eastern Seoul as well as Seongnam—south of the capital city—at two of its primary infrastructure locations. 

It also intends to leverage artificial intelligence in how it uses data across its traffic management system. The goal is to better optimize power at the company’s base stations.

LG Uplus, meanwhile, has joined a government-sponsored program that relies on artificial intelligence, big data technologies, and the Internet of Things to track and manage energy efficiency throughout industrial buildings. As one example, LG Uplus is constructing a cloud-based energy management approach for facilities in southwestern Incheon. The initiative will enable companies within the complex to use LG Uplus’ energy data in order to track, analyze, and improve their energy consumption, which will reduce costs and carbon emissions. 

The Korean government has announced plans to install similar smart energy management systems in seven different industrial centers across the country, and hopes to have these up and running by the end of 2022.