S. Korea to shut 10 old coal power plants

Haze covering buildings and the cityscape in Seoul, South Korea. PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL • South Korea will temporarily shut down 10 coal-fired power plants that are over 30 years old next month to mitigate air pollution.

Coal-fired power plants are being criticised for contributing to deteriorating air quality in South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy.

Amid these concerns, new President Moon Jae In vowed during his election campaign to close the old coal power plants and to review a plan to increase coal power generation. Instead he advocated increasing the share of renewables to produce more clean energy.

Following through on the promise to reduce coal-fired generation, the presidential office, or the Blue House, said yesterday that it will temporarily suspend operations of the older coal power plants next month for one month, to reduce the incidence of fine-dust pollution that they cause.

Mr Moon instructed his senior secretary for social affairs to set up a government body dedicated to tackling the fine-dust issue, which would act as a task force team inside the government.

The temporary shutdown is likely to have little impact on South Korea's power supply in June, said an energy ministry official.

"The old coal power plants generate about 4 per cent of the country's total electricity, so we see power supply will be fine but we will make sure to ensure stable supply," the official said.

  • 4%

    Proportion of South Korea's electricity that is generated by the old coal-fired power plants.


    Number of coal-fired power plants in South Korea.

The Blue House also said it will shut the older coal plants again next year from March to June - when electricity demand is relatively low - and wants to close all of the country's old coal plants during Mr Moon's presidency, which extends until May 2022.

At present, South Korea runs 59 coal-fired power plants. The 10 old power plants make up 10.6 per cent of South Korea's total installed coal power capacity, or 3.3 gigawatts, the Blue House statement said.

Last July, South Korea's Energy Ministry announced a plan to close the 10 old coal-fired power plants by 2025 in order to lower its coal power reliance and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Coal supplies about 40 per cent of South Korea's total power generation because it is cheaper compared with other energy sources such as liquefied natural gas.

Mr Moon also promised during a visit to a school yesterday that the government will install dust-measuring devices at some 11,000 schools - from elementary to high school level - to constantly monitor air quality, according to The Korea Herald.

Mr Moon added that the government will spend 60 billion won (S$80 million) on installing these devices, along with air circulators.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 16, 2017, with the headline S. Korea to shut 10 old coal power plants. Subscribe