The South Korean government is being sued by citizens and businesses for cutting back on renewables targets in the 10th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand.
Nine plaintiffs, which include small renewables business operators, were backed by 24 civic organsations as they filed on Monday for the revocation of the 10th electricity plan at the Seoul Administrative Court, criticising the government’s strategy to lower the share of renewables in Korea’s total power production in the years ahead.
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In January this year, the ministry for trade, industry and energy (MOTIE) enshrined a renewables target of 21.6% in 2030 and of 30.6% in 2036. The 2030 target came as a downgrade from 30.2% set in Korea’s 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) pledge.
“[The plan] goes against the global trend of achieving carbon neutrality and responding to the climate crisis” and violates the basic rights of future generations who have no say on the electricity plan”, the plaintiffs said in a joint statement distributed by Seoul-based advocacy group Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC).
MOTIE under the president Yoon Suk-yeol administration pinned its emissions reduction hopes on the increased share of nuclear energy and the replacement of coal-fired power plants with LNG as the lesser of the two polluting evils.
SFOC has already warned that the 10th long-term plan will jeopardise corporate commitments to 100% renewables by companies that joined the RE100 initiative. However, it also interferes with regional pledges to go carbon free by 2030, which is the case of Jeju Province. Under the plan, Jeju is one of the sites for a new LNG plant.
“This plan contradicts Jeju’s reality and is a result of the government’s centralized policy-making process,” said Jeong-do Kim, Director of Policy at Korea Federation for Environmental Movements’ Jeju Branch, who joined the lawsuit as one of the plaintiffs.
Another consequence of the reduced renewables share under the 10th plan was the relaxation of requirements for Korea’s power companies to offer prescribed volumes of renewable energy as part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS ratio is now at 13% in 2023 from the previous 14.5%, and 15% in 2026, down from 25%.
DRAFT CARBON NEUTRALITY PLAN NOT STRICT ENOUGH
Korea’s climate activists were treated to more bad news on Tuesday when the government released a draft of its carbon neutrality roadmap. In it, it proposed to relax industry and hydrogen emissions targets, while expanding the use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology and offsets from overseas.
The roadmap will be subject to a public hearing, and if it survives unchanged, it will allow the industrial sector to emit 230.7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (tCO2eq), up from the previously suggested 222.6 million tCO2eq set in the NDC. Hydrogen-related emissions will be allowed to increase to 8.4 million tCO2eq from 7.6 million tCO2eq on the proposed expansion of blue hydrogen.
Emissions from the power generation sector are to be on the path of reduction to 145.9 tCO2eq in 2030 from the NDC level of 149.9 tCO2eq. Emissions allowances for other sectors -- building, transport, agriculture, waste, among others -- will remain unchanged compared to the NDC plan.
SFOC has criticised the reliance on CCS, calling it a dubious technology.
“South Korea needs at least a 60% domestic reduction in emissions below 2018 levels by 2030 to do its fair share under the Paris Agreement. The fastest and cheapest way to achieve this is through a renewable energy transition,” said Joojin Kim, the executive direct of SFOC.
With the proposed carbon neutrality plan, South Korea will just offload its climate duty to other countries and future generations, Kim added.