13 Oct 2021

New GHG Targets Dampen Coal Outlook in South Korea

13 Oct 2021  by   
South Korea's power sector will have to reduce its net 2030 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 44.4pc from 2018 levels to meet the newly proposed nationally determined contributions (NDC) target, according to a draft revision plan published by the energy ministry on 8 October.

This means net emissions from fossil-fuel generation including coal and gas will be reduced by 119.7mn t of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) to 149.9mn tCO2e by 2030, from 269.6mn tCO2e in 2018. This is up from a previous target to cut power sector emissions to 192.7mn tCO2e by 2030.

Net emissions are calculated by deducting any measurable carbon reduction activities from certified climate action as per Article 6.2 of the Paris Agreement from gross emissions.

To achieve this goal, Seoul plans to reduce the share of coal and LNG in South Korea's power generation mix to 21.8pc and 19.5pc, respectively, while increasing that of renewables to 30.2pc by 2030, according to a draft plan shown during the 2030 NDC forum that was held on 8 October.

By comparison, South Korea's coal, LNG and renewables generation accounted for 35.6pc, 26.4pc, and 6.6pc in 2020, respectively, according to the latest monthly power report published by state-owned utility Kepco.

South Korea's latest electricity supply and demand plan forecasts the country's overall power demand to increase to 612.4TWh in 2030, compared with 552.1TWh in 2020.

Based on this forecast and the government's power mix targets, South Korea's coal-fired power generation will decrease to 133.5TWh in 2030, compared with 196TWh in 2020 and a 228.2TWh pre-pandemic average during 2016-19.

LNG generation is also set to decline to 119.4TWh by 2030 from 146.2TWh in 2020 and the 2016-19 pre-pandemic average of 136TWh, but LNG's share in the power mix was revised upward by 0.5 percentage point from the last target published in the previous electricity plan.

The government plans to expand renewables generation including hydro, solar and wind to 184.9TWh in 2030, which is nearly seven times larger than the 26.8TWh renewables output recorded in 2020.

Despite the ambitious renewables target, the incumbent Moon Jae In administration continues to support a nuclear phase-out policy and the new target for nuclear generation in the power mix was revised lower to 23.9pc, compared with 25pc in the latest electricity plan.

South Korea's nuclear generation is forecast to total 146.4TWh in 2030 according to the new target, compared with 160.2TWh output last year.

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