South Korea’s Challenging Environmental Quest

The population of the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is approximately 51.28 million people[1]. In 2018, 100% of the people in this East Asian country had access to electricity[2].

In 2018, South Korea’s economy was ranked 12th in the world in gross domestic product (GDP)[3]. The country’s economy is dependent on the manufacture and export of electronics, textiles, ships, automobiles, and steel.

In 2016, South Korea signed the Paris Climate Agreement, committing to an 37% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on a business-as-usual case by 2030[4]. The government has implemented a strategic energy plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase renewable energy, and improve energy efficiency.

In 2018, state-owned Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) used coal (41.9%), natural gas (26.8%), nuclear energy (23.4%), renewable energy (6.3%) and oil (1.6%) to generate electricity in the country[5]. Solar, wind, and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in South Korea.

New, utility scale renewable energy projects in South Korea include:

  • 1,400 MW Floating Offshore Wind ProjectMacquaries’ Green Investment Group (GIG) has commenced work on a 1,400 MW floating offshore wind project 35 miles off the southern coast of South Korea. The project is scheduled to begin operation by year-end 2022.
  • 133 MW Wind + Solar Project – South Korean engineering company, EPC LS Electric has commenced work on hybrid wind-solar project, which will be linked to a 242 MWh energy storage system. The project located in the southwestern region of the country is scheduled to begin operation by year-end 2020.
  • 40 MW Floating Solar Project – South Korean marine engineering firm, Scotra has commenced work on a floating solar photovoltaic project at the Hapcheon hydropower project in the Korean province of Gyeongnam.
  • 25 MW Floating Solar Project – In August 2020, Scotra completed of a floating solar photovoltaic project at a water reservoir in the Korean province of Jeonnam.

South Korea imports virtually all fossil fuels (coal, natural gas, and oil), which fuel power plants that generate over 65% of the country’s electricity. Nuclear power is another key source of the country’s power, however; the current government has announced plans to close all nuclear power plants by 2050.

South Korea’s government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country is facing a daunting environmental challenge due to the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, plans to close nuclear power plants and limited renewable energy resource potential.

Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”

[1] South Korea Population (2020) –  August 29, 2020

[2] South Korea – The World Bank Group

[3] Gross Domestic Product 2019 – World Bank DataBank

[4] Carbon Brief “Paris 2015: Tracking Country Climate Pledges”

[5] South Korea: Electricity Generation By Type 2018, Statista, April 21, 2020

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