Developing Countries & Global Climate Change: Electric Power Options in Korea

The Republic of Korea straddles the line between developed and developing countries. Power demand is expanding rapidly – a “business-as-usual” path doubles consumption by 2015 – and the economy is driven largely by basic, energy-intensive industries. In addition, Korea imports over 90 percent of its fuel. Because of this, the energy choices Korea makes are complicated and may have ramifications for the global environment that outstrip the nation’s size. They could leave Korea’s greenhouse gas emissions virtually unchanged – or more than double them.

What will be the likely drivers of the technology choices for the next twenty years of new power generation?

  • Economic forces pulling Korea toward additional restructuring of the power sector and reform of industrial policy can reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 9 percent relative to the baseline, with slightly lower costs per unit of electricity generated. Increasing the supply of natural gas and reducing import tariffs on that fuel have similar impacts.
  • Economic concerns also might lead to more widespread adoption of cost-effective energy efficiency measures and, by reducing demand for power by 15 percent, could also reduce carbon and sulphur dioxide emissions by almost 25 percent.
  • Further tightening of local environmental requirements might shift technology choices toward natural gas and nuclear and achieve reductions in the emissions of sulphur dioxide (59 percent) and carbon dioxide (28 percent), with only a small increase in costs. Developing Countries and Global Climate Change: Electric Power Options in Korea is the second in a series examining the electric power sectors in developing countries, and will be followed by four more case studies of India, China, Brazil, and Argentina. The report’s findings are based on a lifecycle cost analysis of several possible alternatives to current projections for expanding the power system.