South Korea in $27bn renewables spree

South Korea will invest $27bn in renewables and from next year begin to retire 10 coal-fired power plants.

The dramatic statement of intent on sustainability was revealed this morning by the country’s Second Vice-Minister of Energy, Taehee Woo.

Delivering the opening speech at Asia Power Week in Seoul, he said that South Korea had set an ambitious target to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 37 per cent by 2030, and added that energy storage, windpower and solar would all play a key role.

Woo said that “the power industry is undergoing profound transformation”.South Korea Second Vice-Minister of Energy, Taehee Woo

“The traditional power business model cannot maintain its competitiveness”, he said. “The grid has to become smarter.”

He said another key strand of Korea’s emissions-reduction would involve retrofitting its existing plants with supercritical technology.

The retrofitting theme was taken up by Heung-Gweon Park of Doosan who said that retrofitting “could be the stepping stone” for Asia’s decarbonisation.

“I understand that extending the life of a coal plant does not sound very attractive,” he said, but added that all coal plants in South Korea will be supercritical by the end of the next decade.

And after stating that developed countries such as those in Europe had “relatively well-managed the transition to renewables”, he warned that “such a drastic transition in Asia could prove to be an unbearable shock”.

At a press conference later in the morning, GE Power president Steve Bolze also stressed the importance of overhauling South Korea’s existing plants for the country to meet its greenhouse gas reduction target.

But Bolze went to on say that GE would also be installing its most cutting-edge technology in the next generation of Korea’s combined-cycle plants.

He referenced GE’s new plant for EDF at Bouchain in France, which this year entered the Guinness Book of Records for the most efficient gas turbine, and said: “We have a project in Korea that will be at the same performance ” if not higher.”


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