According to the director, smart grid environments will transform the para-digm of power consumption with the passage of time, i.e., consumers will not remain recipients of electricity supply any longer, but instead actively influence energy markets. In actuality, the people of Jeju are already experiencing such an environment.
Q : What is a precondition for the smart grid industry to become a future growth engine of Korea? Some are pointing out that its monopolistic power sales system is hampering private-sector investment.
A: Korea is one of those countries where electricity is cheap and it is said that inexpensive rates are hindering the expanded role of private-sector participants. However, these days, electronics manufacturers are releasing a series of power-saving smart products, some of which demand response projects. The Korean government, on its part, will be engaged in such projects using smart grid technology from next year. To that end, it has submitted a budget worth 2.46 billion won.
In the power industry, smart grid technologies are not an option but a necessity because only those making timely investments can take the lead. As of 2009, the American and global smart grid markets reached US$21.4 billion and US$69.3 billion in size, respectively. Domestic companies involved may as well knock on the doors building on their technological competitiveness instead of leaning only on their home turf.
Q: In February of this year, the ministry introduced a set of smart grid promotion plans, announcing that the smart grid test bed project limited to Gujwa-eup area will be expanded to cover the downtown of Jeju City. What is the current status of this project?
A: After the first phase of the demonstration project carried out on 6,000 households in Gujwa-eup, the next phase has been underway in a part of Jeju City since June. I’ve heard some opinions claiming that our project, due to its regional characteristics, has its own limitations in checking the demand response effect on a large scale. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that the current project site is optimal for testing and commercializing new smart grid technologies.
During the first stage, we founded a total operating center, which can be compared to the brain in the human body controlling networks and providing real-time power transactions and new services based on two-way communication. In addition, we equipped households with smart meters and energy monitoring devices to enable them to check theirpower usage in real time and make more efficient use of energy.
Furthermore, we established EV (Electric Vehicle) charging devices not only in the test bed site but between Jeju International Airport and the Jungmun Tourist Complex. At present, numerous EVs are being tested in our province. Under these circumstances, we are anticipating coming up with more future-oriented everyday living elements rooted in smart grid, e.g., diversified tariff systems and power transaction, this second phase is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
Q : When will smart grid penetrate people’s daily living, and what economic and social impacts will it have?
A: The ministry is planning to expand the networks to metropolitan cities by 2020 and nationwide by 2030. Currently, some of the local residents in the test bed area are enjoying smart grid environments. The same milieu will be available to more people from 2013, when the infrastructure establishment begins full scale.
Once the environment takes root, a paradigm shift will be witnessed in the way people consume energy. Up to now, the general public was not a group of electricity suppliers in any sense. However, smart grid will grant them the role of an energy market influencer. Their hourly-based usage patterns can affect power production price, and they will be able to sell the electricity they have produced themselves in order to generate real transactions.
Enterprises, on their part, will be engaged in various activities to incorporate new energy into their business portfolio, and consumers will be able to find power rate tables that perfectly fit their patterns. Furthermore, services for the integrated management of self-produced electricity, EV-use electricity and many other types of energy will be introduced for improved and more reasonable power consum-ption.