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Offshore wind key to South Korean commitment

Tue 23 Apr 2019 by David Foxwell

Offshore wind key to South Korean commitment

David Foxwell reflects on plans announced earlier this month for South Korea to boost the share of its energy generated from renewables to 35% by 2040

Sometimes targets are met and sometimes they are not. But it is important to have a target. It has been suggested recently that South Korea could miss its 2030 renewables target, set in 2017 – 20% of generating capacity – and that actual capacity by then will be a little shy of where the government would like it to be.

But the good news is that the Asian country has decided to set a new, ambitious target for 2040. By then, it wants around a third of its energy to come from renewables. It also wants to reduce dependence on coal and nuclear power.

It plans to meet the new target by investing in offshore wind and in solar. By 2030, the country could have around 6.4 GW of offshore wind capacity.

This kind of commitment is beginning to attract some leading players to South Korea. As I noted here, Equinor recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to jointly explore opportunities to develop commercial-scale floating offshore wind in South Korea. Ørsted is actively looking for opportunities in South Korea, and the local government of Ulsan City signed an MoU with a development consortium that includes Shell, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, Hexicon, and California’s Principle Power.

Solar and offshore wind are both likely to be important in South Korea, but large-scale solar projects could be constrained by land, environmental and permit issues. That surely means an increasing focus has to be put on offshore wind.

Admittedly, South Korea does not have a track record of commercial-scale offshore wind, but the involvement of industry leaders such as Equinor and Ørsted will quickly overcome that and, apart from an excellent offshore wind resource, the country has all of the infrastructure required to quickly move into large-scale offshore wind projects.

Anyone who has ever visited South Korea’s shipbuilding sector will know about the strength of its marine industries. There is increasingly strong support from government for offshore wind, and a Renewable Portfolio Standard favourable to it, giving it a high weighting value for potential renewable energy certificates.

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