The Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, in conjunction with the central government, has announced its “Carbon Free Island Jeju by 2030” plan which aims to make the island carbon free and self-sustainable through renewable energy resources by 2030.
According to the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Smart Grid Division, the government body responsible for the implementation of this plan, the “Carbon Free Island Jeju by 2030” project will be executed in three steps: first, Gapado will become a carbon free island and a model for the rest of Jeju by this September. Second, by 2020 Jeju will run on 50 percent renewable energy. And thirdly, by 2030 all of Jeju will be 100 percent carbon free.
“By 2020 Jeju’s goal is 50 percent of all its energy will be renewable,” said Lee Ji Hoon of the Smart Grid Division. “By 2030, 100 percent of [the island’s] energy will be renewable [and] the government hopes that Gapado will be a model.”
The Ministry of Knowledge Economy first introduced a long-term plan for a digital system for electricity supply, dubbed the smart grid, in 2009. It’s set to announce a more specific five-year plan at the end of this month.
The larger framework will stay the same: efficient energy use and further commercialization of new technologies. The detailed plan will shed more light on how that will be done, including the development of battery systems with larger capacities that can store energy for homes and factories, according to the official at the Ministry of Knowledge Economy.
A smart grid is a digitally enhanced electrical grid that gathers, distributes and acts on information about both electricity providers and consumers in order to improve the efficiency of electricity services. It is supposed to minimize the waste or loss of electricity in the course of its delivery.
“Many people still are not familiar with the idea and it will take time for the system to be widely commercialized,” said Son Jong-cheon, director of the Korea Smart Grid Institute’s policy planning team. Currently, there is one town testing the technology on Jeju Island, and other small test centers across the nation.
GS Group chairman Huh Chang-soo on Friday stressed smart grids as key to the future growth and climate efforts of Korea’s fifth-largest industrial group.
Huh called on company officials to develop new technologies and boost commercialization capabilities for the conglomerate’s signature energy business during his tour to smart grid test-bed facilities on Jeju Island.
The nascent technology enables transferring electricity loads to off-peak hours via a two-way, real-time communication between power suppliers and consumers.
“We need to transition to a low energy consumption society through rational and efficient power use,” he was quoted as telling officials from GS Caltex Corp. and GS Engineering & Construction.
Korea generated about 472 Billion Kilowatthours (BkWh) of net electricity in 2011, up by an estimated 3.9% in the previous year. Of this amount, 65% came from conventional thermal sources, 34% came from nuclear power, and roughly one percent came from renewable sources. Although thermal capacity is dominant in Korea at present, nuclear power is set to expand over the next decade, along with significant investment in offshore wind farms.
Korea holds only 139 million short tons (MMst) of recoverable coal reserves. Consumption reached 126 MMst of coal in 2010, while production was less than 3 MMst. As a result, Korea is the third largest importer of coal in the world, following only Japan and China. Australia and Indonesia account for the majority of Korea’s coal imports. Coal consumption increased by over one-third between 2005 and 2010, driven primarily by growing demand from the electric power sector. The electric power sector accounts for more than half of coal consumption, while the industrial sector accounts for most of the remainder.
Meanwhile, Korea has announced that it will spend 40 trillion won by 2015 in a combined investment by the public (7 trillion won) and private sector (33 trillion won) to cultivate renewable energy resources, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said. In this way, the country will be able to become one of the world’s top five powers in renewable energy, the ministry added.
In particular, the government aims to nurture solar energy and wind power industries as the “next semiconductor” and the “next shipbuilding” industries to take up 15% of the global market share by 2015. In the private sector, 20 trillion won will be injected in solar energy, 10 trillion won in wind power, 900 billion won in fuel cells and 900 billion won in bio.
The ministry estimated such investments will generate 110,000 new jobs and increase exports of renewable energy by US$36.2 billion by 2015. The size of the global renewable energy market stood at US$162 billion in 2009, and is expected to grow to US$400 billion by 2015 and to US$1 trillion by 2020.
South Korea’s plan to install smart meters in half the country’s households by 2016 could cut electricity consumption equivalent to the cost of one nuclear power plant.
“We want to make the utility industry intelligent and efficient,” said Choi Kyu-chong, director of the Smart Grid & Electricity Market Division of the Knowledge Economy Ministry. South Korea expects it will be able to save the cost of building a reactor by 2016 by helping households and utilities to manage electricity consumption through the meters, he said.
The country is investing in smart meters amid opposition from citizens and political parties over plans to expand its reliance on nuclear energy after the Fukushima disaster last year in Japan. State-run utility Korea Electric Power Corp. also known as KEPCO, has awarded contracts to companies including LS Industrial Systems Co., Iljin Electric Co. and Nuri Telecom Co. to install the meters from a program that has won a 1.47 trillion won ($1.3 billion) commitment from the government.
Korea has emerged as a powerhouse in many sectors ranging from shipbuilding, automobiles, steel manufacturing and consumer electronic devices, powered by the nation’s prowess in implementing advanced technology.
With its rapid awareness and the scarcity of natural resources ― Korea imports all of its coal, oil and gas ― the nation is looking to focus on “energy-saving systems’’ to prevent damage to its global competitiveness from external factors.
One new solution lies in a major initiative in “smart grid technology’’ in line with the government’s steady spending for green growth. A smart grid additionally utilizes wind and solar power, allows people to more easily report technical problems such as power outages and defends itself against cyber-attacks.
“Korea Electro Technology Research Institute (KERI) will focus its study on the development of next-generation power grid, high voltage and direct current (HVDC) technology this year,” a top official of the institute said.
KERI has set the three topics (low carbon, high confidence and convergence) as its strategic direction. Kim Ho-yong, president of KERI, stated, “The institute will actively push for development of converged medical equipment technology, electricity propulsion, test certification of electric apparatus, and Nano-based electric new material technology in 2012.”
“In particular, we will actively cope with the recent trend of technology convergence, smart grids and High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) technology research and developments (R&Ds) through reform of research organization and propulsion for strategic tasks with relevant institutions.”
Kim said, “By doing so, we will research and develop a top-tier global technology in the fields where most universities and enterprises do not engage.”
Washing machines and refrigerators have joined the ranks of smart devices. This means computerization, improving efficiency and protecting the environment. This focus is shifting to electricity, as experts tackle effective distribution from power plants to consumers.
The grid needs to incorporate renewable electricity production from a multitude of distributed sources and be capable of matching electricity supply with demand at the point of real-time usage.
“Smart grids are being found everywhere. Governments and firms are busy investing more on them. The key point is that the market is growing and Korea is taking on a bigger role,’’ said an expert on the area, Park Geun-min. Park said smart grids are a means to modernize existing power networks, an alternative pursued by governments to address energy independence and global warming issues.