South Korea Is Shutting Down Coal Plants To Reduce Air Pollution

In response to growing public demands for cleaner air, South Korea has made the decision to close a quarter of its coal plants to reduce fine particle pollution and will close even more after winter passes.

Coal is one of the dirtiest energy sources on the planet, resulting in carbon emissions that have contributed to the cause of climate change. Sadly, South Korea may be one of the most technologically advanced nations on Earth, but they somehow still rely on a 19th-century energy source even though cleaner and more sustainable energy sources such as solar and wind are widely available and can more than satisfy their energy needs.

Earlier this spring, cities across the country suffered such air pollution that large areas were blanketed in a fine dust. The public responded with outrage and demanded that something be done to cut pollution and clean up the air.

Seeing as how 40 percent of South Korea’s electricity needs are supplied by coal, the only choice available is to close coal-fired plants.

According to Reuters:

A presidential committee in September recommended shutting down up to 14 coal plants between December and February and up to 27 in March, stepping up the country’s anti-pollution measures.

Heading into the winter months, the decision would seem to put citizens at risk of having less power available to provide heat, but the energy ministry insists that the remaining plants, even capped at 80 percent output would produce more than enough electricity.

The Guardian reports:

The country’s energy ministry said 14 plants would be idled between December and February, and as many as 27 in March, but added that the closures would not affect energy supplies during the coldest months of the year.

Other plants will be maintain their power output at 80% of capacity, depending on demand, the Yonhap news agency said.

In fact, the ministry already has a strategy in place to keep people warm in the event of an extreme cold temperature snap.

“The country’s winter power demand is expected to peak at around 88,600 megawatts (MW) in the fourth week of January, and to increase to 91,800 MW if there is an extreme cold snap, the ministry said in its statement,” Reuters reports. “Electricity supply is expected to meet demand with a power surplus of more than 11,350 MW from December through February, the ministry said.”

Nations around the world are already abandoning coal in droves, not just in response to climate change, but because renewables are cheaper and cleaner. The United Kingdom recently went a full week without having to rely on coal power for the first time since the 1800s when the first coal plant opened in the country.

Even financial institutions are divesting themselves from the coal industry in recognition of the problems coal poses to the planet and public health. Air pollution has been worsening in recent years and it will only get worse if we continue to rely on it. South Korea is doing the right thing by closing plants, and they intend to close up to a third of their plants overall in the short term.

This is not only good for the South Korean people, it’s good for our world overall.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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