S. Korea moves to curb electricity demand

Seo Jee-yeon in Seoul/The Korea Herald
Asia News Network

Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - The Korean government launched a full-scale campaign on Friday to secure sufficient electricity reserves, estimating that the nation¿s electricity reserves would fall below an alarming level of 2 million kilowatts this winter.

¿The nation could face an electricity shortage as power demand is expected to soar in a colder winter this year,¿¿ Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik said in a statement to the public. He said the government will shift into emergency mode in case the country¿s power supply reserve drops below the designated safe level of 4 million kilowatts.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy predicted that nation¿s electricity reserves are expected to fall below to 1.27 million kilowatts in January next year when demand for electricity during the wintertime usually peaks.

Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik (centre), flanked by Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan (left) and Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu, speaks about an energy-saving campaign at his office in central Seoul on Friday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

The estimate was made under the condition that the two suspended reactors in the Yeonggwang nuclear plant complex in South Jeolla Province will resume power generation by year-end. The two reactors stopped operations early this month for their substandard parts to be replaced.

When electricity reserves fall below 2 million kilowatts, the government is empowered to force public organisations to cut their power consumption.

To stabilise electricity supply, the government announced a package of measures to cut electricity consumption by 3.2 million kilowatts and to secure additional power by 1.3 million kilowatts.

To cut electricity consumption, the government said it will introduce an extra-charging system from January next year, in particular, for energy consumption in peak daytime hours in winter by corporate power spenders. It will also encourage about 6,000 companies, which consume more than 3,000 kilowatts during January and February, to lower their energy consumption by up to 10 per cent. Households will also be a target of the energy-saving campaign.

To secure additional electricity, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said it will make all out efforts to complete exchanges of parts for the two 1-million-killowatt reactors in the Yeonggwang nuclear power complex within this year.

The ministry predicted that the electricity shortage will be relieved from 2014 when the nation secures an additional 7 million kilowatts with the construction of a couple of new power plants by the end of 2013.

¿I urge businesses, civic organisations and the general public to participate in this campaign,¿ Prime Minister Kim said.

Electricity shortage emerged as a national issue of contention as the nation¿s power demand has grown faster than expected over the past few years. Industry watchers attributed the hike in energy consumption to cheap electricity, in particular for industrial use.

According to figures released by KEPCO, the price of industrial electricity in Korea in 2010 was close to $0.06 per kilowatt, which is almost half the OECD average of roughly $0.11.