Greenpeace report gives choice to Korea: choose renewables - or get left behind

Press release - 2012-04-19
Seoul - 19 April 2012 -- South Korea's energy supply could switch to nearly 60% renewable by 2050, phasing out nuclear power by 2030, creating jobs, reducing the cost of energy and generating massive savings in electricity supply, according to a new study done by Greenpeace International (1).

National Assembly

Greenpeace today launched The Energy[R]evolution scenario for Korea, an in-depth study and model of an energy future for South Korea, carried out by Institute of Technical Thermodynamics at the German Aerospace Centre (DLR), with Greenpeace International and the European Renewable Energy Council (2). The local Korean partners were Energy Alternative Forum (EAF) and Korea Federation for Environment Movement (KFEM).

Today, around 80% of Korea's primary energy supply comes from fossil fuels and 16% from nuclear energy, with just 2% supplied by renewable energy. If current South Korea policies continue, by 2050 it would invest 74% of its energy spending into nuclear power and only 20% into renewable energy and co-generation. The Greenpeace scenario turns this around to see a 90% investment into renewables and cogeneration by 2050.

"South Korea has a massive potential in energy efficiency," said Sven Teske as he launched the report aboard the Greenpeace ship "Esperanza" in Incheon, near Seoul. "Esperanza means 'hope' – and this work gives hope to a clean, renewable energy future for Korea, which is currently going down an expensive and dangerous nuclear path."

Last night, to support the launch of the report, and the beginning of the M/Y Esperanza ship tour, Greenpeace projected a message saying "New Korea New Energy" onto the dome of the building of the National Assembly in Seoul (3).

Greenpeace Korea Climate and Energy campaigner team leader Hee-Song (Pino) Lee said the report should be a wake-up call for the Government, which not only had failed to look at alternatives to nuclear, but was also misleading the people.

"This report exposes the cheap nuclear lies our Government is selling the Korean people. If we dropped nuclear power we could save around $4 billion a year in energy investments – from now to 2050. This money could cut university fees almost in half (4), improving Korea's future
competitiveness in terms of the economy and our brainpower. We would all be better off under this scenario."

A US report released just last week (5) showed Korea ranked only 15th in the G20 for its investments in renewable energy, lagging behind all its Asian G20 partners, including Indonesia and India.

"It shameful that Korea's investment in renewable energy does not live up to its international reputation as a stronger promoter of the Green Growth paradigm. Korea sees itself as an innovative economy – but this is far from the truth for the energy sector. But it's not too late to change direction and our report shows this," said Lee.

He called on the Government of South Korea to immediately phase out all subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear energy, to introduce mandatory efficiency standards and establish legally binding targets for renewable energy.

Ahn Byung-ok, of the Energy Alternative Forum and the Institute for Climate Change Action said: "The future belongs to sun and wind, not nuclear. Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution scenario clearly shows the future direction that Korean society should be headed."

Wonyoung Yangyi, Director of KFEM, added "A high efficiency society achieved through an expansion of renewable energy and a smart demand management is the only way to escape from the risks of nuclear energy. Since Korea has a huge potential for renewable energy and energy
efficiency, realising Greenpeace's Energy [R]evolution scenario is not that difficult. What will really make the difference is political will."

(1) The Korea Energy [R]evolution models three energy scenarios: The reference scenario (current policies – from 2009), the Energy [R]evolution scenario and the Advanced Energy [R]evolution Scenario.

(2) Greenpeace has published three global editions of the Energy [R]evolution, the latest being in 2010, and has carried out country-specific scenarios in over 30 countries or regions. The first
global edition, published in January 2007, projected a global installed renewable capacity of 156 GW by 2010. By the end of 2009, 158 GW had been installed.

(3) The projection, in English and Korean, was carried out overnight. Images are available for media. 

(4) Korean MP Yoo Won-il (Creative Korea Party) has calculated that cutting student university fees in half would cost about USD$5 billion. Under the Advanced Energy [R]evolution, investment in the energy sector would be much lower without nuclear – around USD$4 billion a year.

(5) The report was published on April 11 by Pew Charitable Trusts in the US can be found at . Korea contributed just 0.1% of the total G20 investment into renewable energy, recording a 5-year growth rate of -9%, beaten by Japan which ranked 8 with a 3.8% shares of total G20 investment and 5-year growth rate of +22%. Korea even lags behind developing countries like Indonesia and India in all categories in significant figures.