The global capacity of power generation based on new and renewable energy sources has reached an amount that can be consumed for one month by 3.4 billion households. In other words, the era of fossil fuels has gone and the era of new and renewable energy is on the horizon.
According to the statistical data of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the cumulative amount of power generation based on those sources recently reached 2,006 GW. Although fossil fuels still account for 60% or so of global power generation, power plants using new and renewable energy are replacing fossil fuel-based power plants at a rapid pace these days. Last year, power generation facilities with a combined capacity of 1,400 GW were put into operation and those using new and renewable energy sources and those based on nuclear power and thermal power generation accounted for 58% and 42% of them, respectively. During the period, the global solar power generation capacity increased by 71 GW.
“We are witnessing a shift toward new and renewable energy across the world at this moment,” said IRENA Director General Adnan Amin, adding, “These new types of energy will accelerate economic growth, create jobs and contribute to the welfare and environment of people.”
South Korea, in the meantime, is falling behind the trend. According to the Korea Energy Management Corporation, the capacity of power generation based on new and renewable energy sources edged up by 1,616 MW to 13 GW in South Korea last year. These amounts are equivalent to 0.2% and 0.8% of the global totals, respectively.
South Korea still relies heavily on fossil fuels. Its coal fuel consumption for commercial purposes totaled 54.8 million TOE and ranked 10th in the world in 2006 and increased to 84.6 million TOE and climbed to seventh in 2014. Germany, Australia and many other advanced economies reduced their coal consumption unlike South Korea during the period.
The South Korean government is well aware of the situation and trying to catch up with the trend. Late last year, the Ministry of Trade, Industry & Energy announced that it would increase the ratio of new and renewable energy in the country to 11% by 2025, 10 years ahead of schedule. Its new pricing structure applied to alternative energy has begun to show some effects in the market, too. However, dissemination of new and renewable energy cannot be completed by the government alone and the country’s industrial structures, environmental factors and opposition from the people living in the vicinity of power plants have yet to be dealt with. South Korea’s main industries such as semiconductor and steel tend to consume a lot of energy and its natural environments are not suitable for efficient alternative power generation. For years, new and renewable energy projects have been delayed or thwarted because of opposition from residents. For an increase in the ratio of new and renewable energy, which is relatively expensive, the price of electricity should be marked up, but the public doesn’t like it.
“In view of industrial factors, the energy efficiency of main industries should be enhanced in the short term and then industries consuming less energy such as the service industry should be promoted in the long term,” the Korea Energy Economics Institute pointed out, adding, “Also required is a social consensus as in the case of Germany and Japan, where the price of electricity has been raised by approximately 20% for more use of alternative energy sources.”