By Anders Lorenzen
Many energy industry watchers have proclaimed coal to be dead. But coal might not be dieing as quickly as many climate hawks would have hoped. Many countries are struggling to reduce their reliance on the dirty energy source. Last year we reported how Germany are increasing their coal usage and mining in the face of nuclear shutdown.
And in South Korea, the picture is somehow similar. The government is struggling to wean the country off their reliance on coal. Last year coal-powered generation hit record high levels.
Statistics by the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO) said the country’s coal-based power generation totalled 217,037 gigawatt hours (GWh) from January through November 2017. This exceeded the previous record of 213,803 GWh reached in the first 11 months of 2016. In addition coal’s share in the energy mix also increased with coal-fired generation rising 3.6 percentage points on-year to 43.2 percent.
This should be seen in the context of a decrease in nuclear plant and liquified natural gas (LNG) usage for electricity production to 27.5 percent and 20.8 percent of total energy production. This is hardly a surprise as several new coal-fired power plants came online during 2017, creating a total new generation capacity of 5.3 gigawatts (GW). At the same time, a temporary suspension of 11 nuclear reactors came into effect. This created a higher demand for coal-powered electricity.
The incumbent Moon Jae-in administration is striving to expand clean energy such as solar and wind to cut down on fossil fuels. But at the same time, they want to end nuclear usage. Last year the newly elected president pledged to end nuclear power due to the fears of a Fukushima style incident. Despite government efforts, it seems it might not be as easy as first thought to reduce reliance on coal while shutting down nuclear. Many might argue ‘you can’t eat your cake and have it, too’.
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