South Korea to increase renewables at expense of coal and nuclear

4 January 2021

South Korea said on 28 December that it will gradually diversify its energy mix by using more sustainable sources, such as solar power, and scale back the use of coal and nuclear, in line with its target to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Under the Ninth Basic Plan for Electricity Supply and Demand, which will run until 2034, sustainable energy sources will account for 8.6% of the total energy mix, compared with 3.3% today, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. Renewable energy will account for 40.3% of South Korea’s nameplate generating capacity in 2034, reaching 77.8GWe up from 20.2GWe in 2020.

Coal powered generation will fall from 31.9% to 22.7% over the period, and nuclear energy will decrease from 21% to 15.5% To meet the goal, Korea plans to shut down 30 coal power plants and renovate 24 of them to run using liquefied natural gas. The ongoing construction of seven power plants will copntinue, but older facilities will be prohibited from operating during the spring season when air quality is poor.

The ministry said it would maintain the nuclear phase-out policy, which entails building no new plants while retiring old ones. Under the plan, the number of nuclear plants in the country will decrease to 17, compared with 24 operating in 2020. While two more nuclear plants are under construction, the ministry said the number will fall after reaching the peak of 26 in 2022. The lifespan of ten existing plants will not be extended, the ministry said.

Separately, the Nuclear Promotion Commission, presided over by the prime minister, approved a government plan to spend KRW500 billion ($456 million) over the next five years on nuclear decommissioning and waste management, in tandem with the country‘s nuclear phase-out policy.

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