SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- The South Korean government on Thursday announced a wide range of measures to prevent recurrence of a recent nationwide power outage that include a 10 percent mandatory power cut by major manufacturers and limited use of neon signs during peak hours.
The move follows massive blackouts on Sept. 15 that affected more than 6 million homes throughout the country and led to nearly 9,000 claims, seeking over 60 billion won (US$53 million) in damages.
The government earlier said it had been forced to cut off supplies as the country's electricity reserve levels had shrunk to as low as 800,000 kilowatts, less than 1 percent of its total generation and far below the 4 million kilowatts that are considered safe.
"We are facing great difficulties this winter. Electricity supplies are stable when the reserve levels are at over 4 million kilowatts, but the reserve levels are expected to drop as low as 530,000 kilowatts during the peak season that will likely last between second and third week of January," Kim Jung-gwan, a vice minister of knowledge economy, told a press briefing.
To maintain the reserve levels at above 4 million kilowatts, the government will require the country's 14,000 largest businesses and largest electricity consumers, mostly manufacturers that use more than 1,000 kilowatts each month, to cut their power use by 10 percent from a year earlier during the peak days that will be announced later.
A failure to meet the requirement will lead to a fine of 500,000 won to 3 million won, according to Kim.
In addition, 47,000 buildings throughout the nation that use less than 1,000 kilowatts of electricity a month will be required to maintain their indoor temperatures at below 20 degrees Celsius while some 19,000 central and regional government offices will be required to keep them below 18 C.
The use of neon signs will be strictly banned each day from 5 to 7 p.m. throughout the entire winter, from Dec. 5 to Feb. 29.
Each business will also be limited to the use of only one neon sign, even excluding peak hours.
This is because a neon sign uses up to eight times more electricity than signboards that use other lighting, Kim said, adding a failure to meet the requirement will also be subject to a fine of up to 3 million won.
The measures will also affect ordinary citizens, though they will not be required to cut their personal electricity use.
The government will expand the interval between subway trains by one to three minutes each day between 10 a.m. to noon when public inconveniences will be minimal, the vice minister said.