The government will spend 78 trillion won in reinforcing power grids such as transmission, substation and distribution facilities to achieve the 2030 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Target (NDC), and establish the Distribution Supervisory Service to manage and supervise the operation of the power grid. In the long term, we will also promote the conversion of regionally distributed power generation that consumes regionally generated electricity.
On the morning of the 29th, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced the power system innovation plan containing these contents at the power system innovation meeting held at the KEPCO Art Center in Seoul. Park Ki-young, 2nd Vice Minister of Commerce, Industry and Energy, who hosted the meeting, said, “Our power system faces many challenges to accommodate the renewable energy that will be expanded in the future. It is urgent,” he said.
The power system is the path through which electricity produced by power plants reaches consumers. The power produced by the power plant moves through transmission lines to substations, where it is delivered back to customers through distribution lines. Power generation is carried out by the five power generation subsidiaries of Korea Electric Power Corporation, and transmission, transformation and distribution are carried out by KEPCO.
Current power system, problems in responding to climate crisis
Widespread renewable energy quality and regional imbalance
As the necessity of using renewable energy to respond to the climate crisis increases, the power system of Korea is exposing several problems. First, the quality of renewable energy is uneven. Not only does the amount of power generation vary depending on the strength of the wind, but the quality is also uneven. This not only causes electrical appliance failure due to frequent frequency errors, but in the worst case, disasters such as fire may also occur. For this reason, the expansion of transmission and substation facilities is essential.
Another problem is regional imbalance. Comparing domestic electricity generation by region as of September, the metropolitan area produces 134,771 gigawatt-hours (GWh). 24.5% of the total power generation. Consumption, on the other hand, is 194,118 GWh. 38.5% of consumption. The metropolitan area is drawing electricity from Gangwon, Chungcheong, Honam, and Yeongnam regions. This imbalance is even greater in renewable energies. As of last year, the Honam region had the largest share of solar and wind power facilities with 40.6%, followed by the Yeongnam region with 21.8%. In these areas, social problems such as destruction of farmland emerged due to reckless investment in renewable energy power generation facilities by private operators. In addition, it is impossible to trade electricity by selling the remaining electricity after consumption or buying it when there is not enough electricity because the power grid is not connected with neighboring countries.
The Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy invested 78 trillion won to invest in transmission and transformation
The Distribution Supervisory Service was also established to supervise power operation.
To solve this problem, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy will invest 78 trillion won to strengthen investment in transmission, substation and distribution facilities. In order to reduce regional conflicts that arise in this process, the revision of the Electric Power Development Promotion Act, which institutionalizes organizations such as the Transmission and Substation Facility Site Selection Committee, in which residents and local governments participated, is also being promoted. It was decided to add renewable energy to the existing power system and to promote the establishment of a new Distribution Supervisory Service that will manage and supervise smooth power operation.
In order to resolve regional imbalances, local government-led power plans for each region are established and support is provided to attract electricity demand. It means supporting the attraction of companies to raise consumption that is below the generation.
This power system innovation plan is also important for labor transformation in the wake of the climate crisis. On the 27th, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy announced at the retirement ceremony of the Honam Thermal Power Plant that it would achieve a job shift for workers toward transmission, substation and distribution. The topic of increasing investment in related facilities by spending 78 trillion won in the power system innovation plan is closely related to this plan.
Conversion of power generation workers to transmission, transformation and distribution?
Development regular and non-regular workers “Impossible talk”
However, the labor community pointed out that such a plan was unrealistic. Nam Tae-seop, head of the policy planning department at the Public Labor Federation, criticized, “The power generation company and KEPCO are completely different corporations, so it is not a relocation or conversion concept in the first place, but a change of job. Tae-seong Lee, secretary of the power generation irregular union representatives’ meeting, also pointed out that “transmission and transformation tasks are completely different for workers of subcontractors of power plants.