For a long time, South Korea has been completely dependent upon imported energy resources to meet its large energy consumption. Prior to the use of renewable energy technologies, South Korea was the fifth largest importer of oil. Since the mid-1990s, however, that reliance on oil has steadily decreased. And although oil does still provide a large percentage of total energy consumption throughout the country, it has steadily decreased. South Korea implemented the goal to increase its total alternative energy supply by five percent by the year 2011, and by 2030, they want this percentage to rise to nine. Now, for many countries, these goals may seem small, but for a country so dependent on oil but so willing to invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency, it definitely is not.
1 ) 2011 Increase in Renewable Energy Investments to Finance more Projects. The South Korean government has made a pledge of $891.2 million dollars in renewable energy investments for 2011. One fifth of the total investment will go to the establishment of five solar and wind technology testing bases. Along with the increase in the investment, the South Korean President Lee Myung-bak believes that this will increase renewable energy exports “nearly ten times higher in 2015 than in 2009.” The minister of Knowledge Economy states that the government, with this investment and future investments, “aims to continue to act on its national strategy of expanding in the global market for renewable energy and other technology.”
2 ) South Korea Renewable Energy Fund. To begin the expansion of its renewable energy infrastructure, in 2009, the government set up a $72.2 million renewable energy fund. The Ministry of Knowledge Economy stated that a lot of the money would be used to gain the attention of private sector investments in projects concerning hydroelectric, wind, and solar power, as well as developing technologies and plant construction. This is to assist the government’s goal of increasing energy export revenues up from $1.2 billion in 2008.
3 ) First Renewable Energy Management System. In late 2010, IBM began a collaboration with South Korea for the first renewable energy management system. The IBM collaboration is with South Korea’s POSCO ICT to create a management system for a smart grid. This is part of the Smart Grid Initiative to create a “low carbon; green growth” vision. The Smart Grid Initiative, supported by the government of South Korea, “is a comprehensive program that covers Smart Power Grid, Smart Consumers, Smart Transportation, Smart Renewable Energy, and Smart Electricity Services. Its goal is to promote economic growth for the country and set a foundation for Korean companies’ technological strength in the global smart grid market.” POSCO ICT will adopt the IBM business analytics software to create an “intelligent renewable energy management system” that will make informed decisions on power generation.
4 ) International Green Energy Expo Korea. The International Green Energy Expo Korea is one of the most professional and largest photovoltaic trade fair in South Korea. More than 400 companies show up from more than 25 countries – 40 percent of the exhibitions are from outside South Korea. Hosted by the Ministry of Knowledge Economy, some of the top photovoltaic companies show up, including SUNTECH Power, JA Solar, and Jintech.
5 ) Conergy Korea. An announcement was made by Conergy Korea to extend the solar plant in SinAn, South Korea from 19.6 MWp to 24 MWp and therefore make it the largest solar power plant in the country. The completed plant will produce 33,000 MWh per year and will supply 7,200 households with clean energy per year and decrease carbon dioxide emissions by 24,000 tons annually. This solar plant will increase South Korea’s bid to become a global leader in clean technologies. The Conergy Korea CEO Kim Jihun said that this would be a landmark moment.
6 ) Voluntary Agreement Program. The Korean government has created a Voluntary Agreement Program whereby to energy providers and energy users are assisted in economizing and evaluating rational energy usage and providing assistance in the development of detailed implementation plans for the conservation of energy. It will be regulated by the Rational Energy Utilization Act.
7 ) Taegisan Wind Power Plant. The Taegisan Wind Farm Project falls in line with South Korea’s “low carbon and green growth” plan. This plant, started in 2008, is the has the leading wind generation capacity of 40 megawatts, which supplies enough energy to feed 25,000 general households and reduce carbon emissions by 60,000 tons annually. A number of other investments have been made, as well as loans, to increase the capacity of the plant. For example, in 2009, the Mizuho Corporate Bank provided a syndicated JPY 4,100 million loan which equals roughly 60 percent of construction cost for expansion purposes.
8 ) Korean Tidal Power Plant Project. Through collaboration between UK company Lunar Energy and Korean Midland Power Co., stemmed the plans for the creation of a 300-turbine field off the coast of South Korea by 2015 – it would provide 300 MV of renewable energy, which could power 200,000 homes. The 500 million British pounds project will utilize power from quick-moving tidal streams, the result of rising and falling tides, to turn turbines along the sea floor. It will be the largest tidal project in the world.
9 ) 500 Turbine Off-Shore Wind Farm Project. At the closing of 2010, South Korea announced its new plan to create a 2.5 GW offshore wind farm along its southwestern coast. This 500 turbine project will cost an estimated $8.2 billion and will be funded in part by the South Korean Government and the rest by private investments. The project is slated for completion around 2019. The Knowledge Economy Ministry said, “Considering the small size of our land, offshore wind farms, with less environmental damage and fewer potential complaints from residents, are far more promising sources of energy than onshore wind farms.”
10 ) Future Collaboration with Israel’s Cleantech Sector. Due to the fact that Israel ranks fourth on the list of largest cleantech nations around the globe and South Korea’s huge technology center, a clean technology partnership between the two countries seem very ideal. In November of 2010, a 37 member South Korean delegation took a ten day visit to Israel to look at 13 Israeli companies, including Zenith Solar, BrightSource, and Ormat Industries. The concept for future collaboration throughout the renewable energy field was discussed, including the manufacturing of automobiles, as well as batteries for cars and battery replacement and charging stations. Israel has the know-how and South Korea as the manufacturing capabilities as it is the fifth largest country for car manufacturing.
Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He can be reached at email@example.com