In­no­va­tion, ef­fi­ciency key to Korea’s en­ergy fu­ture

The Korea Times - - BUSINESS - By Sung Yun-mo, Fatih Birol Sung Yun-mo is the min­is­ter of trade, in­dus­try and en­ergy, and Fatih Birol is the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor.

Ma­jor shifts are oc­cur­ring in global en­ergy sys­tems due to the rapid spread of tech­nolo­gies, in­clud­ing en­ergy stor­age, wind tur­bines and so­lar pan­els.

Amid such in­no­va­tion and change, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency has emerged as a key area. Al­though less vis­i­ble than vast wind farms or eye-catch­ing elec­tric cars, en­ergy ef­fi­ciency is no less im­por­tant for the health of peo­ple, the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency brings many ben­e­fits to our daily lives: cars that run fur­ther on less fuel, lower heat­ing bills for bet­ter in­su­lated homes and the smoother op­er­a­tion of fac­to­ries that make more prod­ucts while us­ing less elec­tric­ity.

There is still a great deal of room for im­prove­ments in en­ergy ef­fi­ciency across ev­ery coun­try and ev­ery sec­tor of the global econ­omy which can have a large im­pact on progress to­wards sus­tain­able en­ergy goals — all us­ing cost-ef­fec­tive tech­nolo­gies that are al­ready avail­able.

Korea is con­tin­u­ing to forge ahead with its en­ergy tran­si­tion to­wards clean and safe en­ergy. On the sup­ply side, en­ergy tran­si­tion im­plies low­er­ing the share of coal and nu­clear en­ergy in the case of Korea while in­creas­ing the use of re­new­ables.

In terms of de­mand, it refers to the cre­ation of a high-ef­fi­ciency and low-con­sump­tion struc­ture by im­prov­ing en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

Korea has con­tin­ued to im­ple­ment en­ergy de­mand man­age­ment poli­cies since the En­ergy Use Ra­tio­nal­iza­tion Act was en­acted in 1979.

How­ever, Korea’s en­ergy ef­fi­ciency-re­lated in­dexes are still far from sat­is­fac­tory.

Korea’s en­ergy use per capita is among the high­est in the world and its en­ergy in­ten­sity lags be­hind at 33rd place among OECD mem­ber states. See­ing the need to up­grade its con­sump­tion struc­ture for a suc­cess­ful en­ergy tran­si­tion, the Korean gov­ern­ment an­nounced the Na­tional Plan for En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency In­no­va­tion in Au­gust.

This plan is in line with the di­rec­tion of en­ergy ef­fi­ciency poli­cies em­pha­sized by the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency (IEA): us­ing pro­grams and in­cen­tives to in­crease pri­vate in­vest­ment, mar­ket-based in­stru­ments for in­no­va­tion, and data col­lec­tion.

In ad­di­tion, rather than the gov­ern­ment im­pos­ing uni­lat­eral reg­u­la­tions, Korea’s Plan fo­cuses on elic­it­ing the vol­un­tary and ac­tive par­tic­i­pa­tion of ac­tors in the mar­ket with a view to chang­ing over­all con­sump­tion be­hav­ior and val­ues.

En­ergy ef­fi­ciency tar­gets will be vol­un­tar­ily es­tab­lished by the in­dus­try while the gov­ern­ment pro­motes greater in­vest­ment by pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives. As for build­ings, en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency re­lated data will be col­lected, eval­u­ated and re­leased to the pub­lic.

In the case of home ap­pli­ances, man­u­fac­tur­ers, sell­ers, con­sumers and the gov­ern­ment will sign a so­cial agree­ment to fa­cil­i­tate the pro­duc­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of prod­ucts with high ef­fi­ciency. In short, con­sumers will come to choose high ef­fi­ciency prod­ucts and fa­cil­i­ties in the same way that pref­er­ence is given to prices, func­tions and de­signs.

Fatih Birol

Sung Yun-mo

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