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Kepco, six subsidiaries announce complete exit from coal by 2050

Nov. 10, 2021 - 16:17 By Kim Byung-wook
Kepco CEO Chung Seung-il officially announces carbon neutrality vision Zero for Green during the opening ceremony of 2021 BIXPO at the Kim Dae-jung Convention Center in Gwangju. (Kepco)

Korea Electric Power Corp. and its six power generation subsidiaries on Wednesday announced a gradual but complete exit from coal by 2050.

Kepco and the six subsidiaries -- Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, Korea South-East Power, Korea Midland Power, Korea Western Power, Korea Southern Power and Korea East-West Power -- together discharged 269.6 million tons of carbon in 2018, accounting for a whopping 37 percent of South Korea‘s total emissions.

The seven companies’ carbon neutrality commitments will play a pivotal role in Korea’s plan to go carbon neutral by 2050.

Dubbed the “Zero for Green” vision, the plan was announced during the opening ceremony of 2021 BIXPO at the Kim Dae-jung Convention Center in Gwangju, with Kepco CEO Chung Seung- Seung-il and other executives from the firms in attendance.

Under the blueprint, the seven companies will commercialize carbon capture utilization and storage technology by 2030 and apply it to coal power generation worth 500 megawatts and natural gas power generation worth 150 megawatts. The goal is to bring down the cost of CCUS technology to $30, which is 50 percent cheaper than the current level.

Then, they will shut down all coal power generation by 2050.

To make up for the electricity generated by coal, they will develop large wind turbines and install them on the southern coast of Korea. The price of electricity produced from those massive offshore wind farms is projected to go down to 150 won per kilowatt-hour by 2030, which is 40 percent cheaper than the current level.

Instead of coal, they also plan to burn green hydrogen. Hydrogen, though colorless, is given different color labels depending on its feedstock and production method. Green hydrogen is produced by breaking water into oxygen and hydrogen using electricity generated by renewables such as wind and solar power. This process is called electrolysis.

The efficiency of green hydrogen stands at 65 percent at the moment, which is too low for commercialization. Kepco and the six firms aim to improve the efficiency level to over 80 percent by 2030.

Another fossil fuel they want to replace is natural gas. Kepco and six firms plan to blend ammonia -- which is a mix of nitrogen and hydrogen -- with natural gas at the ratio of 2:8 and burn them together inside gas turbines by 2027. Then, they will advance the technology and mix pure hydrogen with natural gas at 1:1 by 2028.

To address the intermittency of renewable energy and bolster grid stability, they will advance a vehicle-to-grid technology where electric vehicle drivers can sell their electricity during peak hours.

Also, they will develop energy storage systems -- a giant battery the size of a container to store leftover electricity generated by renewables -- that can demonstrate efficiency greater than 80 percent and a lifespan longer than 30 years.