South Korea speeds shift to renewables with nuclear phase-out

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in has signalled an end to decades of reliance on nuclear power with a major shift in energy policy towards the increased use of renewables and gas.

In a major overhaul of energy policy the South Korean government plans to increase the share of renewable sources from around 6.6% today to around 20% by 2030.

The South Korean leader pledged to move towards “a nuclear-free era” by scrapping all current plans for building new nuclear reactors while cancelling plans to extend the life of existing plants.

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South Korea plans to implement a policy of encouraging renewables by transferring current subsidies paid to coal and nuclear.

“The permanent shutdown of the Kori-1 nuclear reactor is the first step towards a nuclear-free state and a paradigm shift to a safer Republic of Korea,” the president said at a ceremony marking the shutdown held in Busan, 450km south of Seoul.

The changes will see natural gas and renewables favoured over cheaper but dirtier coal-fired generation and riskier nuclear power.

On taking office last month the new president also vowed to close coal-fired plants more than 30 years old within his five year presidential term, and not to build any new coal plants.

“So far, our country’s energy policy has been focused on low price and efficiency only, thus neglecting the safety of the people or the sustainability of the natural environment,” says the president.

Although nuclear was seen as an inevitable choice for a country which is heavily reliant on energy imports, it is now time to move on to a clean energy paradigm, he says.

South Korea had just over 1GW of wind power in place by the end of 2016, according to figures from the Global Wind Energy Council. It also had 5GW of PV installed, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

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