Korea and Germany both aim to significantly increase the usage of renewable energy, to gradually phase out the use of nuclear energy and to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels. At the first “Korean German Energy Day”, experts from politics, industry and research discussed challenges and solutions for their future low-carbon energy systems in front of around 100 participants. Experiences and political strategies of both countries in the fields of renewable energy deployment and energy efficiency were presented. Thereby, also regional perspectives were taken into account with examples from Seoul and Lower Saxony. The Energy Day took place on May 2nd 2018 in Incheon, Songdo Convensia in the course of the International Renewable Expo & Conference (REECON). It was jointly organized by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) and carried out by adelphi and the Korean-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
During the Energy Day, delegates of the ministries and technical experts pointed out the importance of establishing stable conditions and long-term targets such that businesses receive secure signals to invest into energy transition technologies. Furthermore, they showed that energy transition comprises not only renewable energy but also energy efficiency. The demand side will have to be taken much more into account to realize a sustainable and low-carbon energy system. Next to the electricity sector also heating, mobility and industry sectors should be addressed in the energy transition process. For deepening the bilateral cooperation BMWi and MOTIE intend to conclude a formal energy partnership. While the Korean energy transition is still in its infancy, Germany, where renewable energy covered roughly 36% of gross electricity consumption in 2017, can provide insights into lessons learned and systemic challenges that policy makers and market players have to tackle in a changing energy system.
Korea seeks to increase renewable energy
The Korean government decided in May 2017 to increase renewable energy generation in the electricity mix from around 5% to 20% in 2030. According to the draft “Renewable Energy 3020” implementation plan which was released in December 2017, renewable production capacities are to be increased by 48.7 GW by 2030. 19.9 GW are to be achieved through the installation of solar modules for private use in rural areas and small projects, and 28.8 GW through major projects of the large power utilities. Solar energy accounts for 63% and wind power for 34% of the planned capacity increase. The draft also proposes the introduction of a feed-in-tariff scheme for small PV producers and the increase of the mandatory energy supply rate for large power generation companies from the current level of 5% to 28% until 2028.
Obstacles for the Korean energy transition
For achieving the energy transition targets, Korea has to meet several challenges. For instance, as about 70% of South Koreas surface area are covered by mountains, land for the construction of large wind and solar parks is limited. Therefore, offshore wind parks and solar panels on rooftops and building-integrated photovoltaics might play a major role. Furthermore, Korea’s situation as peninsula without access to the electricity markets of neighbouring countries makes it more challenging to balance fluctuations in the production of variable renewable energies and therefore requires different flexibility options for integrating variable renewables (such as storage solutions and demand-side management) in a relatively early stage of energy transition. Additionally, for realizing the renewable energy target, education and communication measures and measures to increase community participation should be implemented as public acceptance of renewable energies in Korea is still relatively low compared to many other developed countries. In order to achieve renewables and emission reduction targets, increasing energy efficiency also is an important factor. However, so far, energy transition concepts of the Korean government do not set a focus on energy efficiency and government-imposed low electricity prices give no incentives for energy-efficient action.