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Solar power heats up as alternative to nuclear energy

Solar power panels on a wind farm. (123 RF)

Publication Date : 14-06-2013


Attention is being paid to renewable energy again as South Korea has suffered from electricity shortages caused by the shutdown of two nuclear reactors.

Focus is being especially placed on solar energy, which is considered more sustainable and profitable than other options such as wind or tidal power.

Following the growing attention on environment conservation and climate change, non-carbon energy sources have been an issue for the global community.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy also introduced a Renewable Portfolio Standard, obligating private electricity producers to allocate a certain proportion of their investment to renewable energy.

Local governments, such as Wonju and Pohang, recently opened the bidding for construction of solar power units in underused sites within the year, according to officials.

Seoul, too, has come up with a long-term programme to promote solar power generation and to build a comprehensive generating system.

Energy experts likewise stressed the need to further promote the renewable energy business sector during the Global Green Growth Summit 2013 held in Songdo, Incheon, earlier this month.

“It would be ideal to allocate 30 to 40 per cent of the nation’s energy from nuclear power, another 30 to 40 per cent from renewable energy and 20 per cent from gas,” said Michael Liebreich, CEO of Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

“We have now reached a stage when the development of renewable energy may no longer be deterred or slowed down.”

He thus mainly referred to solar energy, claiming that wind and tidal power tend to be environment-hostile or cost-inefficient.

Private enterprises, too, gestured to embrace solar power as their future energy source.

Renault Samsung Motors said earlier this week that a new solar power station in Busan would start generating some 25 million kilowatt hours a year.

Local conglomerate Hanwha has long been known for its devotion to the development of solar energy, especially since it acquired the German solar cell-maker Q-cells last year.

Those already involved in the solar power business also view Korea as a potential key player in the future market.

“As a country without abundant natural energy resources, it is inevitable that Korea should go all out for renewable energy to support its future growth,” said Robert W. Campbell, president of CEO of SoloPower, a US-based solar battery company.

The firm, which is to open a flexible solar panel manufacturing unit in Gwangju later this year, assessed Korea as an ideal business hub in the Northeast Asian region, citing its active stance on green technology.

“Skepticism over the entire renewable energy business yet prevails, but in the long-term perspective, few may deny that it is also the only way to go,” the CEO said.

“The key task is to acquire the most advanced technology and take an initiative in the market while no other countries have yet claimed dominance in the market.”

Despite the optimism, the local energy sector is still disgruntled over the whole renewable energy issue, calling it premature and unrealistic.

“In order to avoid the penalty fine, power-generating companies have to allocate a considerable budget to developing renewable energy,” said an official of the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corporation.

“But with the electricity shortage crisis right under our nose, it is highly inefficient to pour so much energy into the business.”


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