The South Korean government's increased investment of more than $700 million on innovation would typically put a strain on the budgets of most similarly-situated economies.
South Korean Government Commits to Aggressive Cleaner Energy Plan
The Korean government is expected to launch an updated 15-year energy plan this year that will greatly accelerate green energy targets. The plan will include the closing of more than 20 older coal-fired generations and will also broaden operating caps at other facilities.
As a nation that is heavily reliant on coal-fired plants to generate power, the move to green energy will require both a significant increase in green technologies as well as a decrease in the use of coal as an energy source, according to experts.
“We have a big challenge ahead to reduce carbon emissions. To some degree, we could do it by expanding renewable power but that won’t be enough to cut emissions so we need to think about reducing coal power and weigh the costs of that change,” Park Jong-bae, professor of electrical engineering at Konkuk University, told Reuters in a recent article.
Following requests from a broad range of Korean specialists, the government in March designated pollution a “social disaster.” As a result of the designation, the government pledged to increase renewable energy to at least 34 percent of the total energy supplies by 2040. The new plan will push for even more renewables as well as gas-fired power—which burns substantially cleaner than coal—and can be imported from Indonesia, Australia, Russian and other natural gas exporters.
The transition to cleaner energy began two years ago with a commitment to boost renewables from around six percent to 20 percent by 2030. This included scaling back coal and having a decreased reliance on nuclear energy, which remains unpopular in the country. A number of nuclear facilities are scheduled to close over the next 10 years.
The nation has already seen a decrease in coal imports, down nearly nine percent in the first four months of 2019. That resulted in a decrease of five percent in the energy mix, falling to around 37 percent.
Korea had been planning on retrofitting 20 of its 60 coal plants with anti-pollution gear in order to extend their lifespans as they reached 30 years of operation. That plan has been put on the back burner for now with the move to a greener energy approach. Government advisors told Reuters that retrofitting was not cost-effective.
Other experts noted that the more to renewables and natural gas would be more expensive than coal and that the country has made a commitment to work on ways to minimize those costs to consumers.