UPDATE : 2019.9.21 SAT 10:58
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Reducing coal power to fight fine dust faces cost challenge

South Korea is seeking to reduce the operation of coal power plants to cope with the alarming level of fine dust in the air, but its plan is facing hurdles in terms of stable energy supply and price issues, industry watchers said on Mar. 6, 2019.

According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy, coal-based power is anticipated to take up 28.6 percent, or 36,031 megawatts of the total power capacity of 126,096 MW in 2019.

Under the government's outlook, South Korea is expected to depend further on coal down the road, with the figure increasing to 42,041 MW in 2022.

The increase, despite the government's plan to break away from traditional sources of energy, including nuclear and coal, came as there are seven new coal power plants under construction, which were approved in the past.

Pundits said the government cannot suspend the on-going projects, considering the amount of funds already injected. Moreover, South Korea also currently does not have alternative measures to meet the country's energy demands.

The ministry believes that while South Korea can maintain a stable supply of power through 2026, it will have no choice but to build more plants beyond that period.

To both curb fine dust and maintain a stable supply, the government currently seeks to change coal-based plants into liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities, which generate less fine dust.

Experts, however, say the government should take a careful approach as LNG is more expensive than coal.

The government plans to limit the operation of coal power plants in days where fine-dust levels are exceptionally high and plans to shut down old facilities over spring when fine dust levels tend to rise sharply, but it is still unlikely that such measures will actually help reduce emissions.

Experts said even if South Korea managed to cut back on coal-based power, the rising use of the fossil fuel by neighboring China could offset any progress.

According to the data compiled by the International Energy Agency, China accounts for roughly a quarter of global coal usage.

Environment researcher CoalSwarm said last year that China is currently building new coal power plants with a combined capacity of 259,000 MW. When completed, China's generation of coal-based power will reach 1.25 million MW, which is roughly 35 times that of South Korea. (Yonhap)

Cho Kyung-hee  edt@koreapost.com

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