Seoul plans to phase out coal by 2050

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South Korea's presidential committee on carbon neutrality submitted to the government today two detailed scenarios to achieve 2050 net-zero emissions, both of which entail a complete coal phase-out by 2050.

The government is scheduled to review and approve one of the scenarios at the next cabinet meeting on 27 October, the ministry of industry and energy, Motie, said today. The government also expects to officially declare its 2030 nationally determined contributions (NDC) target at the UN Cop 26 climate summit next month.

Motie announced that the presidential committee held the second plenary session to finalise proposals for 2050 carbon neutrality scenarios on 18 October, based on the newly-proposed NDC target announced on 8 October.

The committee established two final scenarios at the session, which both assume a coal phase-out by 2050, although this is predicated on the establishment of an appropriate legal basis and compensation plan. The government also plans to facilitate the energy transition using market mechanisms such as environmental dispatch and the Korea emissions trading system, while significantly expanding installed capacity for renewables generation.

The first scenario assumes a complete suspension of all thermal generation, eliminating power sector emissions by 2050. Seoul plans to increase renewable output to 889.9TWh under this plan, which would be a 70.8pc share of 1,257.7TWh of overall power demand in 2050. Generation through zero-carbon gas turbines and fuel cell technologies — which are likely to be powered at least partly by hydrogen — would account for 21.5pc and 1.4pc, respectively, with combined output of 287.1TWh. Nuclear generation would total 76.9TWh under this plan, accounting for 6.1pc of the power mix.

The second scenario stipulates maintaining LNG in its role as a flexible power source but it would account for only 5pc of power demand, or 61TWh, in 2050, based on overall power demand of 1,208.8TWh. Renewables' share in the power mix is lower than in the first scenario at 60.9pc, totalling 736TWh, but the share of fuel cell and zero-carbon gas turbine output would be 10.1pc and 13.8pc, respectively — a combined total of 287.9TWh. Nuclear generation would total 86.9TWh, accounting for 7.2pc.

Under both scenarios, overall power demand is expected to more than double by 2050 from 552TWh in 2020. The share of nuclear in the mix is also expected to fall sharply from 160TWh in 2020, with the country planning to phase out nuclear power over the coming decades.

Seoul plans to reduce power sector emissions to 20.7mn t of CO2 equivalent (CO2e) by 2050 under the second scenario, which would be down by 92.3pc from 269.6mn t of CO2e in 2018.

Today's proposal follows an upward revision to the 2030 NDC target last week, which set net emissions from fossil-fuel generation including coal and gas to be reduced by 119.7mn t of CO2e to 149.9mn t CO2e by 2030, from 269.6mn t CO2e in 2018.


By Evelyn Lee

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