South Korea commits to lower renewables target in favour of nuclear
Wind farm in South Korea. Author: travel oriented. License: Creative Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
South Korea’s government under president Yoon Suk-yeol will push for more nuclear energy and slow down renewables in the latest power mix shake-up to secure a stable electricity supply while curbing CO2 emissions towards 2036.
The share of renewables in total power production is set at 21.6% in 2030 and 30.6% in 2036, under the 10th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand released by the ministry for trade, industry and energy (MOTIE) last week.
The new renewables share for the end of the decade would be a downgrade from 30.2% as established in the 2030 Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) plan that came out last year. MOTIE, however, emphasised that its plan increases the proportion of renewables for 2030 when compared to the 9th electricity plan where this share was set at 20.8%.
But that plan, prepared by the administration of former president Moon Jae-in in 2020, also cranked up the renewables capacity to 40% in 2034 and demoted nuclear power as part of a gradual phase-out.
The nuclear energy targets in the new plan are a generation share of 32.4% in 2030 and 34.6% in 2036.
MOTIE releases electricity plans every two to four years as a roadmap showing which power sources will be prioritised in that planning period. The latest plan considers a gradual reduction of fossil fuel generation, but the combined share of coal and LNG is still set at nearly 43% in 2030 and close to 24% in 2036.
RE100 PLEDGES WILL BE HARD TO STICK TO
The new long-term plan jeopardises corporate commitments to 100% renewables by South Korea’s businesses under the RE100 initiative, Seoul-based advocacy group Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC) has warned.
“The 10th electricity plan is symbolic of the Korean government’s approach toward renewables: Rigid and restrictive,” said Joojin Kim, SFOC’s executive director. “It’s a major red flag for renewable energy companies because the government is capping their potential to grow.”
MOTIE disagrees with this assessment, saying that its renewables target will be able to not only respond to the RE100 demand of domestic companies, but it can also absorb future RE100 subscribers.
“We plan to continue expanding the supply of renewable energy for companies to smoothly implement RE100 in the future, while continuing to implement measures to promote private companies' investment in the renewable energy sector,” MOTIE said, according to a translation provided to Renewables Now by SFOC’s communications officer Euijin Kim.
“However, many RE100 companies in Korea are already falling behind commitments. It is unclear how RE100 demand will be met based on the current electricity plan,” Kim said in an email interview with Renewables Now.
The RE100 group had 28 Korean companies among its membership in November 2022 when it called on MOTIE to revise upwards its renewables target in the then announced draft 10th plan.
RPS RATIO TO GO DOWN WITH THE RENEWABLES TARGET
In a new amendment, which is now in public consultation, MOTIE will aim to reduce renewable energy requirements for Korea’s power companies as part of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
The RPS ratio was previously set at 14.5% for 2023 and would have gradually increased to 25% in 2026. The new rules will take into account the 21.6% renewables target for 2030 and push the RPS ratio down to 13% in 2023 and gradually raise it to 15% in 2026 and 25% in 2030.
GREEN NEW DEAL NOT MOVING
The Yoon administration also appears to have paused the implementation of Korea’s Green New Deal, a strategy devised under former president Moon in 2020 in response to climate and economic challenges sparked by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Since we’ve had a change of administration, we could say [the Green New Deal] is pretty much non-existent now,” Euijin Kim said.
The current Yoon administration "has been emphasizing energy security, which was likely influenced by the war in Ukraine. However, rather than trying to quickly increase renewables, which can be generated domestically, the country still plans on relying on fossil fuels in 2030, which are almost fully imported from overseas," she added.
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