Final energy use in South Korea’s commercial and residential building sectors account for around 15% of the country’s primary energy supply and have done so for the past decade. While energy consumption from buildings has grown, it has done so at a slower pace than in other sectors (i.e., industry and transport). Between 2010 and 2019, the total final energy consumption increased by 15% while that for buildings did so by 6%. This reflects the fact that emissions intensity of energy demand from buildings has decreased significantly over the last three decades (61% reduction between 1990-2019). This is a result of electricity having increasingly replaced direct fossil fuel combustion for meeting buildings’ energy demand.
The 1.5°C compatible scenarios generally show a rapid decline in the share of fossil fuels meeting buildings’ energy demand, and a corresponding decline in direct CO₂ emissions, the latter reaching an emissions levels in 2050 less than half that in 2019. The scenarios show coal, which accounted for less than 2% of the sector’s energy demand in 2019, phased out by 2030. The role of natural gas, which met 32% of the demand in 2019, varies. While the use of this fossil fuel generally declines, it does so at a slower pace in scenarios which assume a high level of energy efficiency or uptake of carbon dioxide removal approaches.
The overall message from these scenarios is that South Korea will need to improve energy efficiency of buildings and focus on space heating, and cooling as the main drivers of emissions in the sector. In terms of energy intensity, the 3rd Energy Master Plan does set a target for a 38% reduction from 2017 levels by 2040. In line with achieving this reduction, the government has set targets for “green remodelling” of public rental homes, public buildings, and schools.– This includes the zero energy buildings project which seeks to have buildings with maximum insulation performance and energy generated through solar power and geothermal heat. However recent analysis has shown that current policy incentivises the construction of new buildings over renovating existing buildings to improve energy efficiency.