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Innovation, efficiency key to Korea’s energy future 2019-10-01

Innovation, efficiency key to Korea’s energy future


By Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Sung Yun-mo, 
International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol


Major shifts are occurring in global energy systems due to the rapid spread of technologies, including energy storage, wind turbines and solar panels.

Amid such innovation and change, energy efficiency has emerged as a key area. Although less visible than vast wind farms or eye-catching electric cars, energy efficiency is no less important for the health of people, the environment and the economy.

Energy efficiency brings many benefits to our daily lives: cars that run further on less fuel, lower heating bills for better insulated homes and the smoother operation of factories that make more products while using less electricity.

There is still a great deal of room for improvements in energy efficiency across every country and every sector of the global economy which can have a large impact on progress towards sustainable energy goals — all using cost-effective technologies that are already available.

Korea is continuing to forge ahead with its energy transition towards clean and safe energy. On the supply side, energy transition implies lowering the share of coal and nuclear energy in the case of Korea while increasing the use of renewables.

In terms of demand, it refers to the creation of a high-efficiency and low-consumption structure by improving energy efficiency.

Korea has continued to implement energy demand management policies since the Energy Use Rationalization Act was enacted in 1979.

However, Korea’s energy efficiency-related indexes are still far from satisfactory.

Korea’s energy use per capita is among the highest in the world and its energy intensity lags behind at 33rd place among OECD member states. Seeing the need to upgrade its consumption structure for a successful energy transition, the Korean government announced the National Plan for Energy Efficiency Innovation in August.

This plan is in line with the direction of energy efficiency policies emphasized by the International Energy Agency (IEA): using programs and incentives to increase private investment, market-based instruments for innovation, and data collection.

In addition, rather than the government imposing unilateral regulations, Korea’s Plan focuses on eliciting the voluntary and active participation of actors in the market with a view to changing overall consumption behavior and values.

Energy efficiency targets will be voluntarily established by the industry while the government promotes greater investment by providing incentives. As for buildings, energy-efficiency related data will be collected, evaluated and released to the public.

In the case of home appliances, manufacturers, sellers, consumers and the government will sign a social agreement to facilitate the production and distribution of products with high efficiency. In short, consumers will come to choose high efficiency products and facilities in the same way that preference is given to prices, functions and designs.