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Korea to expand use of smart grid for energy efficiency

Korea will consider diverse ways to expand the use of the smart grid system as part of its efforts to enhance the country’s long-term energy efficiency, the finance ministry said Thursday.

The move is part of future energy policy directions the government reviewed during a meeting to enhance energy efficiency and effectively cope with other problems from greenhouse gases and climate change. The meeting is intended to discuss the government’s long-term national development strategies.

“Greenhouse gases are known to be the main culprit behind climate change and they are produced in large quantities in the process of producing electricity by burning fossil fuel such as oil and coal,” Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan told the meeting.

“If we intend to cut greenhouse gas emissions to ease the fallout from abnormal weather, the conclusion is that we should reduce the consumption of energy that we currently use just as air and water,” he added.

The smart grid system largely consists of what is known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) that affords consumers a real-time review of how much energy they are consuming and what it will cost, thus encouraging them to cut down their consumption when the price of electricity is at its highest.

The system has been cited as a major way for South Korea to reduce energy consumption amid worries that it could face energy shortages down the road. It is also regarded as the right choice for the country, which is expected to be under growing pressure from the international community to scale back on green house gas emissions down the road.

The ministry proposed designating the resort island of Jeju and a few other populous areas as strategic hubs for the smart grid system and then trying to make it available in a wide region of the country in the long term. It also proposed creating an industrial environment where smart grid technologies can be actively developed.

In a bid to stabilize energy prices, meanwhile, the ministry said that it is considering launching an international oil trade exchange to boost competition. Separately, it will seek to ease regulations on the gas industry.

For the future energy situations, the ministry cited the unification with North Korea as a potential risk factor in the short term, worrying that its lack of preparations for problems linked to climate change and energy supply could present a heavy burden to the Korean economy.

In the long term, however, the ministry expects energy supply situations can be improved if gas pipelines and electricity lines are established linking South Korea to the North and even to Russia.

The abundant amount of coal and other alternative energy sources that the North is holding could be a boon to the South and its cheaper land prices are also expected to provide better construction conditions for building power generating facilities, the ministry said

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