South Korea set to turn away from coal and nuclear

The bioenergy industry is set to benefit from a proposed energy U-turn by South Korea’s new government would put the environment at the centre of energy policy, shifting one of the world’s staunchest supporters of coal and nuclear power toward natural gas and renewables.

According to a report in Reuters, if implemented, the ambitious plans by the world's fourth biggest coal importer and No.2 liquefied natural gas (LNG) buyer will have a big impact on producers. South Korea's LNG imports could jump by more than 50% by 2030, while coal shipments could peak as early as next year.

But experts warn that any move to halt construction of a raft of new coal and nuclear plants, many of which are already being built, could threaten energy security, spark claims for massive compensation and push up electricity prices, according to the news channel.

The plan by the new administration of left-leaning President Moon Jae-in which took power in early May would move a notable laggard in renewables toward green energy, responding to public concerns over air pollution and nuclear safety.

"The government can't neglect people's demands and in the long term it's right to pursue clean and safe energy. But there will be many challenges," said Sonn Yang-Hoon, Economics Professor at Incheon National University, who was quoted in Reuters.

Abundant electricity

South Korea, Asia's fourth-largest economy, gets 70 % of its electricity from thermal coal and nuclear reactors, and offers tax benefits to both sectors to ensure abundant electricity at affordable prices.

While Moon's energy roadmap is still being hashed out, his staff say that care for the environment will play a central role in forming policy.

This news follows comes as the bioenergy industry has made predictions that South Korea will be a big importer of wood pellets in the future.

Giving a presentation entitled ‘A statistical review of the consumption of biomass for heat and power generation’, Rachael Levinson, editor of biomass at Argus, said: “Asia has the potential to overtake Europe in the next few years.”

This fact has led Canadian and US wood pellet producers to show an interest in exporting their wood pellets to Asian countries like Japan.

Currently, the UK is the world’s biggest net importer of wood pellets.  It used around 7.2 million tonnes last year.

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