South Korea Blackout Risk Rises.Search Korea
Min-Jeong Lee, August 12, 2013, 1:37 PM .
South Koreans beat the heat at South Korea’s largest amusement park, Everland, in Yongin, about 50 kilometers south of Seoul on Sunday.The South Korean government is desperately trying to reduce the country’s power consumption over the next few days as scorching summer heat compounds power supply issues, raising the risk of rolling blackouts.
Power consumption has risen in lockstep with summer temperatures, which are expected to eclipse 35 degrees Celsius. “This is a very critical situation where, in case just one power generator gives way, we may have to resort to rolling blackouts like those executed on Sept. 15, 2011,” the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said in a statement on Sunday, referring to the first deliberate blackouts South Korea implemented in memory.
Almost on cue, a 500,000-kilowatt thermal-power plant was shut later in the day after encountering a problem with a turbine. A spokesman for the Korea East-West Power Co., which operates the plant, said it will take more than a week to restart it.
On Monday, the ministry stepped up its energy-saving efforts and said public institutions should stop using air conditioners for three days, until Wednesday. The government recently asked citizens to minimize power usage from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for those three days and to keep indoor temperatures above 26 degrees. It is also promoting cool clothing to reduce the need for air conditioning while also tightening regulations for power consumption by big companies and conducting nationwide drills in anticipation of blackouts.
In a separate statement on Sunday, the ministry pointed a finger at several big companies, including auto makers, accusing them of not fully complying with energy-saving regulations and urging them to contribute more actively to power-consumption cuts.
With Korea potentially on track to record the hottest summer in over a century, rolling blackouts would be a nightmare scenario for government officials. The September 2011 power cuts, which lasted for a few hours on a particularly hot day, triggered a public uproar and resulted in the resignation of the commerce minister.
Although voters have grumbled about the government’s efforts to get Koreans to keep their air conditioners off, it could be worse: It could hike electricity prices. But it doesn’t seem eager to hike power tariffs even though it subsidizes power consumption and Korea Electric Power Corp.015760.SE +0.85%, the country’s state-run electricity provider, isn’t able to cover its costs at current rates.
The government has repeatedly said it wants to boost prices, but with the global economy looking sluggish the need for large factories to reduce costs looks likely to offset any impetus to raise rates and thus add to their burden.