Higher power prices in the offing for South Korea

27 June 2017, Week 25 Issue 413

Concern is being voiced in South Korea about “inevitable” electricity price rises if the country’s new president scraps all NPPs and closes a number of coal-fired facilities.


“The [President] Moon administration has yet to come up with comprehensive measures to make up for the expected power production shortfalls caused by the shutdown of the nuclear and thermal power plants [TPPs],” national news agency Yonhap said. It quoted an unnamed industry source as saying higher electricity prices were inevitable.

Moon Jae-in was elected on May on promises to tackle urban air pollution and ease public safety worries about nuclear power plants (NPPs), some of which are several decades old. South Korea has the world’s sixth largest civil nuclear reactor portfolio, which generates about 30% of national electricity demand.

The country has the highest per capita electricity demand in Asia, the London Financial Times said. Installed capacity is 110,000 MW. 

Nuclear and coal-fired plants together deliver more than 60% of electricity supply.

Concerns over nuclear safety have intensified in the country since Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and following a major earthquake in South Korea in 2016, the Times said.

Public confidence was also shaken by inspections which uncovered fake safety certificates for reactor equipment, and three plants were shut down in May 2013 owing to substandard control cables.

Moon has said nuclear and coal will be replaced by natural gas-fuelled plants, and renewable energy resources which should deliver 20% of demand by 2030.

It is anticipated that the country will massively increase imports of LNG to raise gas-fired power’s share of the national total from 19% today to 37% by 2030, the Korea Herald said.

“Safety and environment are important, but economic feasibility should be considered as well,” a Herald editorial said. “Public understanding is needed about the inevitable electricity rate hikes. An emergency situation such as an unexpected event limiting the gas [imports] should be taken into account.”

Like Japan, South Korea has no natural energy resources of its own. In 2016, it imported 118 million tonnes of coal, mostly for TPPs.

Edited by

Richard Lockhart


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