South Korea’s newly-elected government is considering a rapid shift in focus away from coal and nuclear power towards renewables and natural gas, in what would mark a major change in energy policy for the East Asian country, according to reports.
Since his election last month, President Moon Jae-in and his administration have been drawing up ambitious plans to address air pollution and climate change by focusing on greener energy sources, with the environment said to be playing a central role in any new policies, Reuters reports.
During the election campaign, Moon pledged to review existing plans to build nine coal power plants and eight nuclear reactors, and since his victory last month he has also set out plans to bring forward the closure of 10 older coal plants in order to cut air pollution.
South Korea is Asia’s fourth largest economy and currently sources 70 per cent of its electricity from thermal coal and nuclear power stations, with the government providing subsidies to the sector to help keep energy prices down.
But the new administration’s proposals could see a significant upsurge in the amount of liquefied natural gas imported by the country, which could lead to coal imports peaking as soon as next year, Reuters reported.
Concerns have been raised, however, that changes in policy could lead to a number of new coal and nuclear plants currently under construction in the country being halted, which could push up energy costs.
Under the new plans the government could look to gas-fired power generation from around 18 per cent to 27 per cent of the power mix by 2030, with renewables growing from around five per cent to around 20 per cent.
Meanwhile, the plans could see coal generation – which currently accounts for around 40 per cent of the country’s power – drop to under a 22 per cent share by 2030, and nuclear would fall from 30 per cent to 21 per cent.