South Korea to Close Up 25% of Coal Plants to Fight Pollution

By Juthy Saha

South Korea will shutdown at least eight and as many fifteen coal-fired power plants between December and February to limit air pollution. The remaining plants should be enough to supply power over the winter.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement that this suspension will be applied to 8 to 15 plants, including two older 500 megawatt plants which have higher emission levels than others.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth-largest economy, has about 60 coal-fired power plants, generating 40 percent of the country’s electricity. But experts say burning coal has worsened air quality in the country.

The remaining plants will reduce output to 80 percent of capacity over the period, it said, adding the measures would reduce the sector’s fine dust production by up to 44 percent.

But its first priority would be to maintain a “stable power supply”.

Large areas of South Korea were blanketed in fine dust this spring, prompting MPs to warn that air pollution was creating a “social disaster”.

The World Health Organisation has warned that air pollution poses a major public health risk due to its links with a host of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Electricity demand soars for heating in winter, and is expected to peak in the fourth week of January. At that time stores will be banned from keeping their doors open as an energy-saving measure, the ministry said, with violators fined up to three million won ($2,500).

Demand this winter is expected to peak at around 88,600 megawatts (MW) in the fourth week of January, and to increase to 91,800 MW if there is an extreme cold snap, the energy ministry said.

Electricity supply is expected to meet demand with a power surplus of above 11,350 MW from December through February, it added.

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