Asia Minute: Earth Day: Renewable Energy Rising on Korean Peninsula

Apr 22, 2019

Credit Kristian Buus / tentenuk / CC BY 2.0 / Flickr

On this Earth Day, renewable energy is in focus around much of the world. While Hawaii is a leader in some aspects of energy policy, clean energy is also gaining traction on the Korean peninsula in both the south and the north.

There was some surprising news out of North Korea last week. Not about weapons testing or diplomacy, but about solar energy.

Reuters reports solar panels are becoming cheaper and more widely available in the country. This doesn’t come from any altruistic sense of the benefits of clean energy, but at least in part as a practical way around economic sanctions which block imported oil and coal.

Earlier this month, a North Korean government newspaper reported a group of workers at a cooperative farm who surpassed a production goal were rewarded, in part, with solar panels. Reuters also quotes recent defectors as saying more teahouses and karaoke bars have switched from diesel generators to solar power.

On the other side of the 38th parallel, South Korea’s largest wind farm went on line this month. Korea East-West Power added 35 new wind turbines to a facility about 150 miles south of Seoul. Company officials say the total output of more than 140 megawatts is enough to supply electricity to nearly 73,000 households.

According to government figures quoted by the Joongang Daily, renewable energy in 2017 made up about seven and a half percent of South Korea’s energy use.

The government wants to nearly triple that to 20% renewable energy use by the year 2030.