South Korea to shut a quarter of its coal-fired plants over winter to cut pollution

VOICES.NEWS- South Korea will temporarily shut down up to a quarter of its coal-fired power plants next month in an attempt to combat danger...

VOICES.NEWS-South Korea will temporarily shut down up to a quarter of its coal-fired power plants next month in an attempt to combat dangerously high levels of fine dust pollution.

The country’s energy ministry said 14 plants would be idled between December and February, and as many as 27 in March, but added that the closures would not affect energy supplies during the coldest months of the year.

Other plants will be maintain their power output at 80% of capacity, depending on demand, the Yonhap news agency said.

South Korea’s 60 coal-fired power plants generated 40% of its electricity, but burning coal has worsened air pollution, with record-high concentrations of dangerous PM 2.5 particles observed in several major cities earlier this year.

The World Health Organisation has warned that air pollution poses a major public health risk due to its links with a host of respiratory and cardiovascular illnesses.

Large areas of South Korea were blanketed in fine dust this spring, prompting MPs to warn that air pollution was creating a “social disaster”.

In response, the government introduced a range of emergency measures, including limiting power plant and vehicle use, and cutting the amount of dust generated by building sites. But the measures have had little effect.

Non-essential vehicles will be banned from roads every other day in major cities for four months starting on Friday.

The air pollution crisis has caused friction with China, which South Korean public health experts say is responsible for between 50% and 70% of fine dust pollution in the Seoul area, home to almost half the country’s population.

China rejected those claims and suggested that South Korea’s own power plants, factories and vehicles were to blame.

South Korea’s energy ministry said the coal plant suspensions would cut fine dust emissions by 44% over the three months from December compared to last year.

Demand this winter is expected to peak at around 88,600 megawatts (MW) in the fourth week of January, and to increase to 91,800 MW if there is an extreme cold snap, the energy ministry said.

Electricity supply is expected to meet demand with a power surplus of above 11,350 MW from December through February, it added.(mr/guardian)


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