“Green” Energy Threatens South Korea’s Economy

By Vijay Jayaraj

Ranked 12th in per capita energy consumption in 2021, South Korea uses more than three times the global average. The country’s industrial sector accounts for 40 percent of total energy consumption. Particularly energy-intensive are large industrial cities such as Ulsan and Gwangyang, which is home to what claims to be the world’s largest steel manufacturing plant.

However, the country’s booming economy is now bracing to meet the impact of recently announced net zero ambitions. These policies are designed to replace existing sources of dependable energy with so-called green technologies that have proven volatile in both reliability and price.

The Net Zero Thrust in South Korea

South Korea is committed to achieving net zero by 2050. In 2021, the country proposed two road maps to achieve this. The first calls for a ban on “all thermal power production using fossil fuels such as coal, LNG (liquified natural gas) and oil to have zero emissions in the electricity generation sector”.

The second would eliminate coal plants while retaining LNG facilities as a flexible power-generation source. The plan also calls for an 85 percent electrification of all vehicles that are on the roads.

Under these proposed road maps, the country aims to reduce production of electricity with coal by at least 50 percent by 2030. It is unclear how this loss of generation might be filled by the intermittent sources of solar and wind. The share of solar photovoltaic in South Korea’s total power generation in 2021 was just over four percent.

Businesses see these plans as “threatening to industries” as well as “far-fetched and ambiguous.”

South Korea plans to meet some of energy need with large projects such as a $32 billion offshore wind project. Fishing grounds, home to abundant shrimp, butterfish and croakers, appear destined to become the world’s largest offshore wind farm, endangering the ecosystem and the traditional livelihoods of thousands.

Can such an intrusion into pristine marine environments be justified by the energy production of wind turbines? Certainly not! Here’s why.

Though solar and wind power are often touted as renewable energy sources that can help to meet the country’s growing needs, they are highly unreliable because of their dependence on sunlight and breezes and incapable of providing continuous power to large populations and industries.

In addition, solar and wind are not cost-competitive with fossil fuels and would undercut the ability of commercial and industrial customers to compete.

In short, the large industrial hubs of South Korea – and other enterprises – need the reliability and economical energy of nuclear power, natural gas and coal.

As a matter of fact, these three energy sources have been pillars of economic growth in South Korea this century. To strip the country of these modern miracles of energy production would cripple an economy that relies on industries to meet 32 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The highest single GDP contribution to the economy is from the manufacturing.

South Korea has an “electricity emergency response manual” that outlines “response procedures in the event of an electricity supply emergency”. The plan provides various measures to reduce energy demand in the event of a supply shortage. Increasing reliance on wind and solar almost surely will lead to such shortages as it has in places like California and Germany.

The more sensible approach would be to retain existing energy sources that supply South Korea’s  524.5 trillion won ($398.6 billion) manufacturing sector. This is especially so since the net zero obsession is an irrational response to a faux climate emergency.

This commentary was first published at Real Clear Energy, May 29, 2023, and can be accessed here.

Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Virginia. He holds a master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, UK and resides in India.

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Edward Katz
June 9, 2023 6:13 pm

With these unrealistic plans to introduce more renewables to supplant fossil fuel generators, South Korea could soon find it self in the same position as Japan was after that country began closing its nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster. It soon found that wind and solar couldn’t come close to making up the energy shortfall, so it’s now constructing 22 new high-efficiency, low-emissions coal plants because both consumers and industries refused to settle for inadequate and unreliable power supplies.

Reply to  Edward Katz
June 9, 2023 6:23 pm

Wouldn’t it be good if many other countries had an equivalent “Fukushima moment” that caused them to get rational about coal fueled electricity generation.

(I’m looking at you USA, UK, EU, Australia, Canada)

Rich Davis
Reply to  Mr.
June 9, 2023 8:05 pm

Wow! How do you do that Mr? The sun never sets on Mr’s vision apparently!

Reply to  Rich Davis
June 9, 2023 10:15 pm

See, at some point in the irrational race to replace reliable, affordable coal fueled electricity with wind & solar, societies must come to the realization that
“doing the same thing over & over and expecting a different outcome is the definition of insanity”.

Which would be their
“Fukushima moment”.

(like that light bulb thought moment)

Rich Davis
Reply to  Mr.
June 9, 2023 10:25 pm

Oh yes, I get that. I meant that you can look at Australia, the US, and the EU at the same time. Must involve mirrors or something. 😉

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rich Davis
June 10, 2023 5:44 am

or a world map 🙂

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Mr.
June 10, 2023 5:43 am

As Churchill? said, “America always does the right thing but only after trying everything else first”.

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Edward Katz
June 10, 2023 5:41 am

Japan is a small nation with a lot of people and the land is mostly mountains which they revere. Even if wind and solar energy was a good idea- and it isn’t- it’s impossible for wind and solar to amount to anything but a token energy source. I’m surprised that wasn’t obvious to even those who fought to stop their nuclear power. Luckily that nation smartened up.

June 9, 2023 7:42 pm

South Korean does not have the land available for the amount of wind and solar they would need to even come close to covering their energy requirements.

It would totally destroy the environment of the whole country.

Search “south korea landscape” images, and see why they should not even consider going down that idiotic route. !

Rich Davis
Reply to  bnice2000
June 9, 2023 8:14 pm

Obviously the capitalist running dog puppet regime in South Korea has gone down the wrong road in the past 75 years. They need to aspire to unify with the glorious DPRK, paragons of energy conservation. Under a succession of great and dear leaders, the North points the way to the glorious future that Rusty and Simple Simon dream of achieving for the whole world.

Rich Davis
Reply to  bnice2000
June 9, 2023 8:17 pm

comment image?w=748&h=498

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  Rich Davis
June 10, 2023 5:46 am

wow, great photo- thanks for that- no doubt, western climatistas are praying our nations will look like NK at night! And I detest them for that.

June 9, 2023 8:37 pm

I thought the Koreans were too sensible to believe those Green lies. Obviously not. Throwing away their hard-earned reputation for quality, in exchange for an untrue unproven hoax! Unbelievable!

Joseph Zorzin
Reply to  mikelowe2013
June 10, 2023 5:47 am

Maybe Biden and other western leaders are quietly leaning on SK to do this in order to reduce its industrial competition?

Bryan A
June 9, 2023 9:55 pm

The second would eliminate coal plants while retaining LNG facilities as a flexible power-generation source. The plan also calls for an 85 percent electrification of all vehicles that are on the roads
South Korea had 24.9M registered vehicles on the road as of 2021. To meet their ambitious goal of 85% would require replacing more than 21M vehicles (+ additional annual sales until the mande takes affect) over the short roadmap period and require more than 600% of the currently available global supply of materials. Where will they get the needed materials for batteries as well as copper for motors when the UK will be claiming 800% of current global supplies AND the USA will be claiming more than 2400% of current global supplies in an effort to do the same thing in the same timeframe

Steve Richards
Reply to  Bryan A
June 10, 2023 3:33 am

Thank heavens for climate maths. With climate maths, all countries each using more than 100% of worldwide resources is no problem at all. I suspect there are graphs that show how easy it is to achieve.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Steve Richards
June 10, 2023 6:41 am

Don’t worry the IEA are working on it especially since someone pointed out to them that their own ‘World Energy Outlook 2022’ noted

“Coal demand peaks in the next few years, natural gas reaches a plateau by 2030 and oil demand reaches a high point in the mid 2030s before falling slightly. From 80% today – a level consistent for decades – fossil fuels fall to 75% by 2030 and just over 60% by 2050”

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Steve Richards
June 12, 2023 4:52 am

They probably resemble a *hockey stick,* with all the same out-of-touch-with-reality cluelessness as the Mannian “climate” male bovine excrement in its repeated versions, each with the same odor of the original version.

Reply to  Bryan A
June 12, 2023 5:14 am

The plan also calls for an 85 percent electrification of all vehicles that are on the roads.”

The numbers don’t look quite as absurd if you read this statement with a focus on the 85% figure. In other words, they aren’t thinking of 85% of the 24.9M vehicles currently registered, but 85% of a much smaller number of registered vehicles. The plebs like us will all be expected to give up personal transport.

Joseph Zorzin
June 10, 2023 5:38 am

So much for SK being a powerful industrial nation.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Joseph Zorzin
June 10, 2023 7:59 am

Yes, the Delusion seems to be strong in the South Korean leadership.

There is no reason to fear CO2. South Korea’s leaders should do a little research before bankrupting their nation by turning off the electricity.

Ronald Stein
June 10, 2023 6:47 am

The problem with renewables is that they don’t work most of the time!

“The nameplate farce”:

There should be financial penalties for wind and solar power plants inability to deliver at least 90% of their permitted nameplate ratings on an ANNUAL basis, like their backup competitors of coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants that provide continuous uninterruptable electricity.

Subsidies for wind and solar power plants are based on “nameplate ratings”, thus they should be penalized when they cannot deliver what they have been permitted for.

Practically every windmill or solar panel requires a backup from coal, natural gas, or nuclear, thus understanding electricity generation’s true cost is paramount to choosing and prioritizing our future electricity generating systems.

Tom Abbott
Reply to  Ronald Stein
June 10, 2023 8:00 am

The major problem with “renewables” is they are not necessary. There is no reason to eliminate our traditional methods of generating electricity.

AGW is Not Science
Reply to  Tom Abbott
June 12, 2023 6:48 am

Nor is there any ABILITY to do so, unless we are willing to tolerate blackouts, brown outs, and an unpredictable timing thereof.

June 11, 2023 5:37 am

“It is unclear how this loss of generation might be filled by the intermittent sources of solar and wind.”

Try not to get carried away in panic. South Korea has a very large, very effective nuclear construction and operation program. Whatever electricity it needs can be produced from additional nuclear power reactors. The country has no need for wind/solar. It is far more likely that any noises the South Korean government makes about renewables is simply noise to distract the antinuclear industry.

AGW is Not Science
June 11, 2023 1:28 pm

“Green” energy threatens EVERY economy where it is employed, because it is incapable of providing the energy a modern society needs, and is therefore nothing but a parasite.

Peter C.
June 15, 2023 6:45 am

Imagine trying to operate one of the world’s largest steel smelters on solar panels and wind mills.

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