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S. Korea struggles to avoid blackouts
Publication Date : 14-08-2013
Public offices and big companies still reducing use of electricity despite sweltering heat
Hope that South Korea, gripped by a summer heat wave, will avoid blackouts is rising as the nation’s daily power reserves stayed above a safe level of 40 million kilowatts for two consecutive days thanks to nationwide power-saving efforts.
The Korea Power Exchange, the nation’s state-run power distributor, issued a “preliminary” warning for a possible power shortage, the first stage warning out of five levels, as power reserves fell below 4.5 million kilowatts at 11:17am. Power reserves did not slip further, fortunately, even during the peak time for daily energy demand between 2pm and 5pm.
“Despite bigger power demand today than yesterday, power supply remains stable thanks to power-saving efforts nationwide,” an official from the Korea Electric Power Corp. said.
Government and public organisations turned off air conditioning and lighting except for in necessary areas for two consecutive days. A number of schools nationwide also joined the government’s power-saving campaign on Tuesday by delaying the opening of the second semester or cutting class hours.
Private companies, most of which are large power spenders, continued to run their own power-saving programmes , including a reduction of power use in their plants during the daytime and encouraging employees to take summer vacation this and next week.
Despite some relief gained from the nationwide power-saving campaign, frustration and complaints of the government’s repeated power-saving drive as well as its policy failure to predict power supply and demand are rising.
“It is very hard to concentrate on work in an office where the temperature is set at 28 degrees Celsius. I really don’t understand why the government repeatedly forces companies or citizens to bear with heat or cold during summer or winter without developing measures to raise power supply for years,” Jeong Hye-won who works at a conglomerate in Korea, said.
In particular, those who work for a public organisations go through the most painful summer.
“I am fighting against sweat and darkness at work rather than tasks. This is the worst working condition that I ever experienced,” said an official from a state-run power generation company on condition of anonymity.
The inefficiency caused by the power shortage nationwide will most likely continue until the weather cools down. The government currently has no alternative plans for power demand control this summer since it takes considerable time to increase the power supply capacity, industry watchers said.
Some positive news amid the power shortage is the approval to reopen a nuclear power unit with a capacity of 1 million kilowatts on Monday.
The Nuclear Safety and Security Commission approved the operation of the Reactor Unit 4 at Hanwool nuclear power plant complex, located some 330 kilometres southeast of Seoul. The plant remained inoperable for over a year due to defects in its steam generator. The nuclear plant will restart operations partially today and be fully operational by August 21.