South Korean Government Completely Changes Energy Technology Development Plan

Dec 26, 2019

It is clear that there are differences in many areas such as R&D strategy and direction and expected effect between Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy’s Fourth Energy Technology Development Plan, which was announced on the 23rd, and Third Energy Technology Development Plan that was announced five years ago. While the fourth plan focuses R&D in the renewable energy field, R&D on major basic power sources such as nuclear energy and coal has become a minor issue. Energy transformation policy that the current government is pushing for has been reflected on the blueprint of Energy Technology Development Plan that will last for ten years.
Energy Technology Development Plan (the plan) is the highest legal basic plan for energy technology development that is established every five years according to the Article 11 of Energy Act. Because it includes specific action plans to carry out medium and long-term energy policies, it acts as a basic guidebook for establishing national R&D strategy on energy for ten years.
Size of a budget that will be used for development of energy-related technologies is not stated in the fourth plan. Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) only stated that it would invest 90% of national R&D budget on energy on 16 key areas such as promotion of new industries and did not include the exact amount of a budget in the fourth plan. This clearly contrasts how South Korean Government led by the formal president Park stated that it would invest $10.3 billion (12 trillion KRW) and $6.89 billion (8 trillion KRW) from the government and the private sector respectively when the third plan was being devised. Exact amount of a budget that will be used for different areas such was also made public.
“Although we wanted to include the exact amount of a budget, it was difficult for us to come up with a specific amount and there were also different opinions between departments.” said a representative for MOTIE.
Difference in the direction of technology development per energy source is also clear. MOTIE included nuclear power plant as the key energy supplier and it presented development of key technologies in four major areas as its goal. Securing part of APR+ (Advanced Power Reactor), key nuclear power plant technology, and safety improvement technology was shown as a success by MOTIE that was looking to expand the new nuclear power plant export market towards the Middle East and Asia.

South Korean Government Completely Changes Energy Technology Development Plan

However, the fourth plan only presents task and goals for securing nuclear decommissioning technologies that have yet to be secured and technologies for strengthening the safety of nuclear facilities and does not mention any key technology development task for exporting new nuclear power plant. Unlike how the third plan focused on the development of coal-fired high-efficient generator, the fourth plan focuses on technologies that will reduce the amount of fine dust.
Importance of development of renewable energy technology has become so huge that it cannot be compared to that of the third plan. While South Korean Government presented development of a hybrid solution that combines generation of renewable energy and ESS (Energy Storage System) through the third plan, the fourth plan establishes more than four projects per energy source such as solar power and wind power and presents bold goals. Fact that the fourth plan presents hydrogen-related projects for the first time clearly shows that the fourth plan is completely different from the previous plans. The fourth plan also clearly states South Korean Government’s goal on efficiency of water electrolysis and amount of hydrogen extracted from water electrolysis.
R&D system on energy is now based on large-scale and long-term projects. MOTIE presented plans and goals that can be applied right away through the third plan. However, the fourth plan focuses on challenging technologies that can be global rather than technologies that can be commercialized right away. It also materializes South Korean Government’s plan to increase the percentage of investment on field test and evaluation from 15% to 25% by 2030. The fourth plan is applied with South Korean Government’s will to secure technologies that measure up to technologies from other advanced countries and not be satisfied with short-term results.
Changes in overall goals are also noticeable. MOTIE expected $26.7 billion (31 trillion KRW) in economic effect and creation of 100,000 jobs for the next ten years when it devised the third plan. On the other hand, MOTIE now expects $49.1 billion (57 trillion KRW) and creation of 110,000 jobs through the fourth plan. MOTIE’s expectation on economic effects has jumped by 83% in just five years. Fact that MOTIE is looking to increase participation of public enterprises in R&D linked to demands is also noticeable. Besides, the fourth plan proposes a goal of improving the level of technology compared to that of advanced countries by 10% than this year while the third plan proposed a goal of improving the level of technology by 90%.
Staff Reporter Choi, Jaepil | jpchoi@etnews.com

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