Market report: South Korea and its renewable energy ambition

Sarosh Bana

Part 2. Solar power has so far been the main renewable energy technology deployed in South Korea.

Note: this article first appeared in Renewable Energy Focus September/October 2012. Click here for a free signup.

For part 1 of this series click here.

In fact, the country's green energy growth programme is split between aiming to achieve a dedicated solar target and a ‘non-solar’ clean energy target.

The target for solar of 450MW by 2013 has already been surpassed, notes BNEF's Kuang. In her August 2012 research note (Is Korea's RPS achievable?) she says that with current solar capacity in the country standing at 614MW, the 2014 target for 690MW will also be achieved early. So the government plans to increase that target to 880MW and bring forward a target for 1.2GW of solar by 2016 to 2015 – the formal revision is due to be announced later this year.

The non-solar clean energy element of the country's plan is where the biggest capacity is planned though, with wind power expected to dominate the country's renewables sector in the long term. Indeed, a target for 23GW of installed wind capacity by 2030 has been set to meet a goal for wind power to generate 50TWh annually (and meet 10% of South Korea's forecast electricity demand). “The long-term non-solar RPS target may be achievable, but it will be difficult to meet this year's target,” Kuang notes. “The 3200MW of installed capacity reached to date is still 800MW below the 2012 target and pipeline projects are not moving quickly enough.”

Most of the utilities required to meet RPS targets may therefore incur penalties, unless they can negotiate a target revision or compliance delay with the government. “We believe the latter is very likely to occur,” says Kuang.

She adds: “It is wind power that will have to take the lead, as the government expects 10,200MW to be added in 2012–22.” Onshore wind accounts for 7.7GW of this, while 2.5GW will come from offshore – the government published its Offshore Wind Master Plan at the end of last year, specifically targeting $8.2 billion (€5.8 billion) in investment to develop 2.5GW of offshore capacity by 2019.

The wind market has however been slow to take off due to some initial public opposition to wind projects and the low feed-in tariff originally in place prior to the introduction of the RPS, notes the Korean Wind Energy Industry Association (KWEIA). Installed wind capacity has increased from 5.9MW in 2000 to just 455MW.

For 2012 though the government expects some 2.39GW of new wind plant to be installed (which would account for 70% of all renewable energy plant expected this year). KWEIA says this sudden growth spurt is being driven by the RPS requirements while companies are now realising the overall business opportunities in this segment. Kuang agrees. “The recent REC price is higher than the old FIT and thus should encourage more onshore wind development.” However she notes: “The onshore wind project pipeline is currently only 1600MW.”

Significantly, the testing/pilot phase for the offshore programme will start soon in the Young-Kwang area off the southwest coast of the Korean peninsula. Tenders will be invited shortly from companies to establish private-public partnerships (PPP) to install 500, 5MW turbines. The first phase aims for 100MW installed (originally planned by 2013), with a further 900MW planned by 2016 and the final 1.5GW by 2019. Local governments are also promoting a further 4.5GW of offshore wind projects across the country.

See also - Factfile: RPS Framework drives South Korean market.

Part 3 - key players.

About: Sarosh Bana is India correspondent for Renewable Energy Focus magazine.

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