South Korea Will Close Half Its Coal-Fired Fleet

South Korea’s president said the country will shutter 30 more coal-fired power plants by 2034, and bring additional solar and wind power resources online in the next five years in order to meet emissions reductions targets.

President Moon Jae-in made the announcement Sept. 8 in a speech he delivered virtually for the United Nations’ International Day for Clean Air for blue skies event. The president said his administration will close 10 of those operating coal-fired plants by the end of 2022. He also has called for the country to phase out nuclear power.

South Korea has about 60 operating coal plants, which generate about 40% of the country’s electricity. The country over the past three years has implemented temporary shutdowns of plants that are more than 30 years old, including idling about half the coal-fired fleet earlier this year in an effort to reduce air pollution.

Jae-in also said South Korea will more than triple the number of operating solar and wind power installations by 2025, compared with the number online as of 2019. The country also will provide incentives to increase the number of electric vehicles on its roads to 1.13 million, up from the current 110,000, and to increase the number of hydrogen-powered vehicles to 200,000, up from the current 8,000.

“The government will work with the people to bring back the blue skies with more powerful environmental policies,” Jae-in said. The president said the targets announced Monday are in line with his administration’s goals to produce more energy from low-carbon sources, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The president’s speech Monday came on the anniversary of his presentation at the UN last year, in which he proposed the International Day for Clean Air for blue skies event. The South Korean leader last year said at least one day each year should be designated as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of clean air.

Jae-in’s administration has ended construction of any new coal-fired power plants—the country in 2017, the year Jae-in took office, reached a new high for coal-fired power generation—while supporting renewable energy resources, including the use of fuel cells. He said in his speech Monday that climate change has become “the most important problem in our generation,” noting the country has been hit with three major typhoons in a two-week period in late August and early September. He emphasized that the country needs clean air, in part to help combat the coronavirus pandemic, and also to promote economic growth.

The president on Monday also highlighted his administration’s Green New Deal initiative, which he said could create 660,000 jobs. The program calls for a 73 trillion won ($61.43 billion) investment through 2025. Jae-in also said the country by year-end will have a roadmap to become carbon-neutral by 2050, and by the end of this year also will set new GHG emissions reductions targets by 2030.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

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