Renewable energy policies and performance in Korea
The republic of Korea is a resource poor country that relies 94% of its energy consumption on overseas imports, and nonetheless is the 9th largest energy user in the world. This inherent problem of energy supply and demand structure in Korea makes it vulnerable to external environmental changes such as rising oil prices.
<Primary energy supply by sources>
<Korea’s energy related ranking>
Against this challenging backdrop, the Korean government has put its top energy policy priority on renewable energy, in order to overcome the vulnerability of domestic energy supply and consumption structure. Korea’s various renewable energy policy strategies can be streamlined into two categories: (i) regulatory programs and (ii) supportive programs.
Firstly, regulatory programs include Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), and mandatory renewable energy installation in public buildings. These schemes enforce the use of a certain level of renewable energy sources in the power generation, transportation and public sector.
Secondly, in order to stimulate the market expansion of renewable energy systems, various support schemes for renewable energy deployment are provided - soft loans and subsidies to renewable energy installations at households and buildings, eco-friendly energy town and energy independent island projects, etc.
<Key renewable energy deployment policies in Korea(2017)>
|18 utilities with over 500MW installed capacity are mandated to supply a certain level of electricity from renewable energy sources. (10% by 2023)
|The transportation sector is required to use a certain mix of renewable energy in their fuel. (Biodiesel 3% by 2020)
|Mandatory installation for
|Public buildings need to consume more than 21% of their total expected energy usage with renewable energy sources. (30% by 2020)
|Subsidy for Homes,
Buildings, Local communities
|Renewable energy system installation cost is partially subsidized for households, buildings and local communities.
|Solar PV Rental Program
||Solar PV rental companies install and rent PV systems to households and get paid back from rental fee and selling renewable energy points. Household owners pay cheaper power bill less than 80% of average bill.
||Long term and low interest loans are provided to renewable energy installers.
|Rural Community PV
||Local acceptance of renewables is improved while increasing PV deployment in rural agricultural areas, as farmers can earn benefits by participating as investors in PV systems.
|Eco-friendly Energy Town
||Induce communities to install renewable energy systems on unwanted facilities such as sewage treatment plants, and earn new sources of income and enjoy better welfare.
|Energy Independent Island
||Micro-grid systems are installed to replace expensive diesel generators on islands.
Korea’s continued efforts for renewable energy development and deployment have achieved a sixfold increase in renewable energy power generation ratio, from 1.24% in 2010 to 7.27% in 2016.
<Renewable energy share in total power generation (2010-2016)>
Accelerated effort in energy transition towards renewable energy new government in Korea
For the past few decades, Korea has strived to expand renewable energy systems across the country. This effort has been greatly accelerated in the recent global energy paradigm shift from fossil to renewable energy, based on two key drivers: the global effort to cut back on carbon emission, and remarkable advance in green energy technologies.
Under the new climate regime, all countries are actively seeking the solution to a carbon free economy. This is becoming gradually possible thanks to technology innovation and cost effectiveness in the renewable energy sector. Hence, renewable energy is considered as the core technology to enable a massive shift in the energy paradigm.
In response to this global shift, and to secure safe energy for the Korean people, the government of Korea launched in May announced denuclearization and decarbonization in the power sector. Nuclear power plants will be gradually phased out and the shutdown of nuclear power plants under construction will be posted to public discussion. For coal power plants, planned constructions at an early phase will be reexamined of their necessity while new construction of coal plants will be prohibited. The operation of old coal power plants will be suspended for at least four months a year, and 10 coal power plants that are over 30 years old will be retired before the end of the administration’s term of office in 2022.
To replace nuclear and coal power, the government has announced a higher renewable energy generation target, from 7% today to 20% by 2030 – an aggressive target that is nearly double the previous target of 13.1%.
In order to meet this goal, Korea must install an additional 53GW of renewable energy, mainly solar PV and offshore wind power by 2030, which in accumulation will amount to 68GW.
By successfully implementing the government’s policies, Korea will achieve our national target of supplying 20% of electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030, while contributing to job creation in the process.
IREC 2019 in Korea will create a great momentum in the Korean public to accelerate the shift towards renewable energy.
Korea shares the same values as REN21
The value and mission of REN21 to facilitate knowledge exchange, policy development and joint action towards a rapid global transition to renewable energy has been materialized in many aspects in Korea as below:
Enhancing economic feasibility though RPS program has resulted in wider deployment of renewable energy
To achieve cost-effectiveness of wider renewable energy deployment, Korea shifted its policy focus in 2012 from subsidy-based Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) to market-based Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). RPS has significantly lowered the fiscal burden on the government in its effort to deploy renewables, and has led to the creation of a large renewable energy market where cost-efficient options are available, particularly in solar PV and wind power generation.
<Installed capacity of solar PV system in Korea (2005-2015)>
New project models enhanced eco-friendliness and local community's acceptance of renewable energy systems
Under a new project of Eco-friendly Energy Towns, renewable energy systems have been installed to unwanted facilities, such as landfills and sewage treatment facilities to resolve environmental issues and energy supply at the same time. One example from the 19 towns in the pipeline is Hongchun, a rural town in Gangwon province. Small hydro and solar PV systems were installed to the sewage treatment facility, and sewage was processed into clean gas and sold to neighboring areas, creating income for the town.
Another example of new project model is a multi-purpose solar PV program, first launched in 2014. The system functions as a power supplier as well as a shade for agricultural products. From 2017, recognizing the importance of local acceptance, small-scale solar PV generation facilities are installed in several rural areas, making sure that local communities benefit from renewable energy production.
[Eco-friendly energy town (Hongchun, Gangwon province)]
(Capacity: Small hydro 25kW, solar PV 340kW, etc.)
Renewables were useful in improving energy welfare
Energy Independent Island model enables remote islands with limited energy access to enjoy clean, cheap, stable energy supply and increases energy welfare of these communities. Under this model, solar PV, wind power and ESS replace conventional diesel in power generation. As of 2017, the program is underway in 14 islands, as collaborative programs between central and local governments.
Another example of welfare renewable energy is Sun Sharing Power Plant. It is recognized as an excellent and practical example of promoting renewable energy and enhancing energy welfare at the same time. Under this program, social enterprises have supported the energy-poor group by sharing profits gained from public solar PV facilities with low income groups in both Korea and abroad.
|Sun Sharing Power Plant
||Support for energy-poor group*
|16 (as of June 2017)
||$ 1.5 million
*Korea: 4,424 households, 16 welfare facilities.
Overseas: 8 organizations including institutions, schools and kindergartens etc.
Sharing Korean experience can expedite the global transition toward a carbon-free future
A variety of initiatives and programs in Korea which has limited renewable resources can shed a light to other countries on how to overcome barriers in widening renewable energy market and coming up with innovative solutions. Keeping in mind the point, Korea has been sharing its experience in implementing various renewable energy programs and ensuring expected outcomes.
In 2016, Korea shared the Energy Independent Island program with the Philippines, in Cobrador Island. This pilot program improved the residents’ overall quality of life and helped increase the existing income from fishing by providing electricity for refrigeration.
Eco-friendly Energy Towns and renewable energy based eco-friendly and micro-grid projects are underway in Ethiopia, Mongolia and Lao P.D.R. Independent micro-grids are built in Ethiopia, while closed mines are restored to revitalize urban areas in Mongolia. In Lao P.D.R., electricity is provided by renewable energy grid clusters to communities in UN designated protected areas for biodiversity.
Korea’s successful policies and best practices have been shared through both bilateral and multilateral channels, including joint projects with Asian Development Bank (ADB), World Bank (WB) and United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The knowledge exchange provoked keen interest among the participants and there have been calls from various stakeholders to cooperate with Korea on the schemes. For example, ADB wants to replicate Cobrador project to other Asian islands.
[Cobrador Island, the Philippines]
(Solar PV 30kW, ESS 175kWh)
Seoul, an international leadership in municipal energy and climate change policies
In the history of Korea’s energy policy, Seoul has not only aligned its policy with the central government but has also designed and implemented a more aggressive energy masterplan independently. The city is the first among local governments to announce its own environmentally friendly energy initiative, the 2030 Seoul Low-carbon Green Growth Master Plan.
Although local governments have no regulatory or decision-making authority on energy pricing in Korea, Seoul has demonstrated its energy leadership as it strives to expand the use of renewables by improving its institutional framework and developing original policies such as a program to propagate small-scale solar PV generation facilities. Through this initiative, Seoul has reduced its energy consumption by 366 million toe, which is equivalent to 1.83 times the production capacity of a nuclear power plant.
[Mini Solar PV Power for Households]
[Citizen funded Seoul Sunshine Plant]
<Best Practices in Seoul’s ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant Initiative’>
||Deploy mini PV generation facilities for household with a capacity of less than 250W. Seoul Metropolitan Government provides subsidies to half of installation cost which is in total $500.
|Seoul solar map
||Map of the solar potential for PV generation in different areas of Seoul is provided to the public online. This way, citizens can have easy access to information on whether they can install solar PV generation facilities in their buildings.
|PV power network for public institutions
||Network and monitor solar PV generation facilities installed in Seoul’s public institutions. The collected data is used in developing PV energy policies.
||Implement Feed-in-Tariffs (FIT) policy to subsidize small-scale solar PV generation facilities with a capacity of 50kW or less in order to encourage investment.
|Soft loans for solar PV generation
||Extend an eight-year loan with a 2.5% interest rate to small-and-medium-sized solar PV generation companies with a capacity of 150kW or less.
|Energy self-sufficient communities
||Provide budgetary support and consulting services to community led activities to produce renewable energy.
<Five-year Result of the One Less Nuclear Power Plant (Unit: toe)>
(Jan 2012-Jun 2014)
(Jul 2014-Dec 2016)
Second Phase of the One Less Nuclear Plant initiative: Making Seoul an energy self-sufficient city
As of 2017, Seoul is in the second phase (2014-2020) of implementing the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative, which is aimed at realizing three values: promoting energy self-sufficiency, energy sharing and community participation. By 2020, the city plans to raise its energy independence rate by 20%, reduce energy consumption by 400 million toe, and lower GHG emissions by 10 million tCO2.
In particular, the city government will build mini solar PV generation facilities (250W) that can be easily installed not only in houses but in apartments for 10,000 households a year in order to turn Seoul into a safe city that produces sustainable energy on its own. It will also continue building citizen-funded solar PV generation facilities where people can make investments and gain profits.
<2020 Seoul Sustainable Energy Action plan>
Seoul, a living example of a rapid transition to a renewable energy metropolis
In December 2015, the mayor of Seoul chaired the ICLEI Global Executive Committee in Paris. The body adopted the ICLEI Declaration, which expresses commitment to facilitating responses to climate change by cities around the world.
The mayor emphasized the importance of action by local governments as they have increasingly bigger roles to play in reducing GHG emissions under the new climate regime.
In this context, Seoul’s proactive energy policy could serve as an example for other cities in Korea and in other countries alike. The city government has a vision to achieve sustainability by initiating structural changes in order to transform Seoul into an energy self-sufficient city that engages people in the production and efficient use of energy.
Seoul has committed to denuclearizing and decarbonizing national energy sources and independently resolving energy issues arising in the 10 million populated city, using renewable sources.
This commitment embodies values that need to be shared with other cities around the world at the 2019 IREC in connection with their response to the issues of energy production and climate change.