South Korea fires up on renewables, to close more coal plants

(Reuters News, 19 Jun 2019) Facing choking smog and pressure to cut emissions, world's fourth-biggest coal importer is expected to accelerate targets for green energy in an updated 15-year energy plan.

As renewable energy powers up in South Korea, coal-fired generation, long the bedrock of the country's electricity supply, is being tapped to give up room.

Facing choking smog in its major cities and under pressure to meet emission reduction targets, the world's fourth-biggest coal importer is expected to accelerate targets for green energy in an updated 15-year energy plan later this year.

Long seen as a laggard with Japan in moving away from coal, the government now looks set to close some 20 ageing coal-fired generators and broaden operating caps at others, say advisers and energy experts.

"We have a big challenge ahead to reduce carbon emissions. To some degree, we could do it by expanding renewable power but that won't be enough to cut emissions so we need to think about reducing coal power and weigh the costs of that change," said Park Jong-bae, professor of electrical engineering at Konkuk University.

South Korea began its transition to cleaner energy in a 2017 power supply plan that aimed to boost the share of renewables from about 6% to 20% by 2030, while scaling back coal and unpopular nuclear.

Amid public anger, the government in March designated pollution a "social disaster", and a month later pledged to boost renewable energy to up to 35% of total energy supplies by 2040.

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Reuters News, 19 Jun 2019: South Korea fires up on renewables, to close more coal plants