In 2017, CO₂ emissions from energy combustion represent 85% of South Korea’s total GHG emissions. Although the government has announced a ban on new coal-fired power plants, unit level analysis of the country’s 9th Basic Plan for Power Supply and Demand shows that coal is set to be phased out in 2054. This is almost 25 years later than the phase-out year suggested by the 1.5°C pathways analysed here. Moreover, the 9th Basic Plan envisions converting several existing coal plants to combined cycle natural gas plants.
Power and industry will be key sectors in driving the decarbonisation of primary energy demand, followed by transport. For 1.5°C compatibility, the use of fossil fuels should be halved by 2040 and reduced further in subsequent decades. Zero emissions sources (renewables, nuclear) should make up 43-66% of primary energy by 2050. Higher shares of renewables would reduce reliance on other technologies, such as fossil fuel CCS, linked to high costs, social acceptance, and safety issues.
The Korean Emissions Trading Scheme (K-ETS) is one of the country’s main cross sectoral policy instruments. Recently having increased in size, the K-ETS currently covers 69 subsectors within the following 6 sectors: heat and power, industry, buildings, transportation, waste, and the public sector. The current phase of the scheme, covering 2021-2025, has an average annual cap of 610 MtCO₂e and covers 74% of total emissions (excluding LULUCF).,
The power sector will play a large role in decarbonising the energy sector, particularly because decarbonisation efforts in other sectors, such as transportation, will rely on electrification. However, South Korea also plans to utilise hydrogen fuel for transportation, ushering in the world’s first hydrogen law in 2021. SK Group, the country’s largest oil refiner, is set to play a major role in hydrogen development. The government has also announced plans to build an 8.2 GW offshore wind farm, which would be the world’s largest when built., Apart from providing renewable electricity to the nation’s power grid, the wind farm also has the potential to produce green ammonia as a fuel for maritime shipping, another sector which the government has prioritized in its decarbonization efforts.,,