Energy and Climate Policy Institute

작성일 : 13-11-16 01:59
Enerzine No 33. South Korea, Move from Green Economy to Creative Economy
 글쓴이 : 에정센…
조회 : 10,649 No.33.pdf [2494]
1. Issues

                                              South Korea, Move from Green Economy to Creative Economy?

The 22nd World Energy Congress was held for four days in Daegu, from October 13, 2013, under the theme “Securing Tomorrow’s Energy Today.” Many chiefs of various countries’ energy ministries, multinational enterprises, and international organizations attended the event. Considering the number of participants, the event is listed as the greatest congress in the history of the event.

An international governmental organization, World Energy Council (WEC), which so call the Olympic Games in the energy sector, World Energy Congress, every three years, aims to “supply and use the sustainable energy that gives back maximum benefits to all people.”

The 22nd World Energy Congress drew attention by defining Energy Trilemma. It is not a new topic compared to the discussions led by international conferences like Rio+20. The following are the three dilemmas that make up Energy Trilemma.

The first dilemma concerns how to secure stable and sustainable energy sources in the future, which is usually called energy security; the second, acquiring energy equity or energy access by solving the energy supply-demand imbalance; and the last, how to attain environmental sustainability, the term used to collectively refer to the environmental responsibilities brought about by climate change.

The three dilemmas that the world is currently faced with are similar to the concepts presented by the Lee administration, which we are already familiar with. From a different perspective, however, other commonalities can be found. They are the capital-friendly and capital attraction market principle and the technical principle that advertises the solution through state-of-the-art technology without systematic implementation. It seems that WEC is defining the future and that such definition is well expressed in the 10 Action Plans for a Sustainable Future, which was proposed as one of the results of the World Energy Trilemma Study that WEC implemented over two years ago. 
If this is so, how did South Korea react in the discussion? It can be seen in the speech given by President Park Geun-hye in the opening session last 16th under the theme “Overcoming the Trilemma of Energy Policy.” Considering her attitude in dealing with current domestic issues like nucleus development and Milyang’s transmission, her expression “the great transformation of energy” is a mere lie or rhetoric, or if not, it came from an entirely different matter. “The Great Transformation of Global Energy Cooperation” has more complex circumstances.

On October 18, 2013, a party was held quietly in Seoul. It was a commemorative event to celebrate the first anniversary of the transformation into an international organization of Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), which was launched as the Lee administration’s international version of “Low Carbon, Green Growth.”  The first South-Korea-led international organization founded as a non-profit organization in 2010, it now has 20 member countries, including Denmark, Australia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, the UK, Vietnam, and Mongolia. Even considering that South Korea’s highest official and national basis had been changed, the event was too shabby compared to those held one and two years ago.

Meanwhile, there has been a rumor that GGGI is bound to become a case of failure of international cooperation. Recently, a political scandal related to travelling expenses broke out in Denmark, and the person involved in the scandal was GGGI Chairman Lars Løkke Rasmussen. The Social Democratic Party (Socialdemokraterne) and some opposition parties have been pounding on the issue and pressing Rasmussen to resign as GGGI Chairman. The problem is that the issue did not stop at the scandal but was extended to the role of GGGI and the true nature of South Korea’s “Green Growth,” which is the background of the organization.

In the meantime, the claim that the Lee administration’s “Low Carbon, Green Growth” program was in fact a “High Carbon, Gray Growth” program had been raised in the domestic and overseas movement camps. The UN and International Cooperation Development Agency used to refer to South Korea as a model case of Green New Deal, regardless of the realities. Now, however, a fundamental question about South Korea’s green growth has been raised in Denmark, the country that most actively helped transform GGGI into an international organization.

Another truth was directly expressed by WEC. South Korea was ranked 64th among 129 countries in the recently published 2013 Energy Sustainability Index. Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, the UK, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Spain, and France received high scores (in descending order), and Japan was 16th, the highest rank among the Asian countries. South Korea dropped 10 places from last year, with a D rating in Energy Security, B in Energy Equity, and C in Environmental Sustainability. South Korea would have been ranked lower if the nuclear corruption and Milyang Transmission Tower controversy were reflected in the index.

We need to view our place objectively. “Green” and “Creation” should no longer be used falsely or as mere political rhetoric. What South Korea needs in preparation for Clean Energy Ministerial 2014 is the courage to look at the truth.

  Written by Jung-pil, Lee (Researcher:

2. Opinion
                                                            Berliners’ Energy Revolt

Berlin Energy Roundtable, which I visited last May, is a solidarity organization composed of 55 diverse groups that are critically against a large private power company that is regionally monopolizing the electrical grid and generating unit. The groups came together to take back the electrical grid that was entrusted to a large power company (transnational enterprise Vattenfall).

Roundtable’s Stefan Taschner said that since the privatization of the public electrical grid and power plants of Berlin from the liberalization of the electrical-power industry post-1998, the decline of the electrical grid, the skyrocketing of the electrical bills, the intensification of energy poverty (the power supply of 25,000 households was suspended as of 2011), and the inadequacy of the energy conversion efforts have been becoming apparent. The organization claimed that it was time to take back Berlin’s electrical-grid operation and to make it right again.

At the time, the roundtable was preparing to move for a local referendum. It came up with a bill for the Berlin city government to directly establish and operate the municipal power plant and electrical-grid company. The bill stated that the municipal power plant erected by the city government had to “be in charge of supplying energy to Berlin 100% for the long term based on the renewable energy produced across the region” and “be committed to supplying energy to the citizens and to reducing energy poverty” if the bill passes.

The bill also stipulated that the operation of these companies, which will be established separately in accordance with the EU regulation that divides the power plant and the electrical-grid company, will be the responsibility of the city government, the Berlin citizens, and the committee composed of the representatives of the company workers. The bill is called “Berlin’s Democratic, Ecological, and Social Energy Supply.”
                                        A Power Company Managed by the City Government, Citizens, and Workers

A campaign was held to obtain the signatures of 170,000 people (7% of the voters), which is the condition for the holding of a local referendum. In the end, Roundtable obtained the signatures of 260,000 people and “easily” and successfully satisfied the local referendum requirements. The referendum was thus held on November 3, 2013.

Berlin’s current coalition administration of the Social Democratic Party and Christlich-Demokratische Union is fundamentally cynical about the aforementioned claim. They founded a municipal power company as a counterfire, but it is miles away from the citizens’ desire as the company is only a “paper organization” with an appointed president. The citizens’ continuing campaign succeeded in obtaining a political card called local referendum and compelled the city government to offer the developed position of substantializing the municipal power plant and making a move towards the expansion of renewable energy.

This kind of movement to make the privatized energy industry public again happens not only in Berlin. Recently (last September), in the local referendum conducted in Germany’s second city, Hamburg, together with the general election, majority of the citizens voted “yes” to making the city’s electrical and gas grids public (municipalization) again.

                                      A Movement to Re-communalize the Electrical Industry

According to the Wuppertal Institute Study, which was recently published (2013), there are 72 cases of local governments taking back the privatized electrical grid and establishing a municipal power company since 2005. Also, there are 190 cases of smaller administrative units like communities obtaining the operational rights. Fifteen years after the power privatization, the movement to make privatized power companies public again, called recommunalization, has been spreading across Germany, counteracting the flow of neoliberalism.

Germany, however, is different from South Korea in that its historical and structural characteristics enable these citizens’ movements. Traditionally, there was local energy sovereignty in Germany, and it still exists to this day. That is, Germany’s history saw local governments owning and operating electrical grids and power plants, and there are still many local governments that are managing such right on their own, without entrusting it to business giants even after the liberalization of the power industry.

Presently, in the mid-2000s, it is known that there are 80 or so local small and medium-sized public companies and about 800 city unit distribution companies owned by the local governments.  The most well-known case is the southern city of Germany, Munich. Its municipal power company has been producing 15% of the city’s electricity needs with renewable energy and plans to produce 100% thereof by 2025. The electricity is distributed through the municipal electrical-grid company.

                                    An Operational Authority Owned by a German Local Government

Berlin’s city government has the right to operate the city’s electrical grid (distribution network) by reviewing the companies participating in the public tender every 15 years. Thus, next year, Berlin has to newly assign the operational rights over the distribution network, which is currently owned by Vattenfall.

The Berliners have been demanding that the city government use such right properly, for energy conversion and welfare. If the local referendum in Berlin will be successfully conducted, Berlin’s city government also has to participate in the public tender so that it can establish an electrical-grid company and directly execute the operational rights over it.

Even if the referendum fails, there is a ready alternative: the citizens will participate in the competition through an energy cooperative. The key idea is to come up with the funds needed to cover the expenses to be incurred in purchasing the electrical grid, but there is also a plan for this. As there are many energy cooperatives in Germany, the citizens may recruit the members and secure finances, which in turn can be used as collateral for a bank loan.

                                      Third Position of the Privatization Argument: Proposing Localization

Now, let’s turn our attention from Berlin to Seoul. Having directly and indirectly experienced the establishment and execution processes of Mayor Park Won-soon’s “Reduction to One Nuclear Power Plant” policy, I realized that the local governments’ energy-related rights, organizations, and facilities were absurdly inadequate. Most rights and means were owned by the Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Energy, KEPCO’s local branches, and local gas companies.

We must not endure the restriction, however, as it is. The local citizens and governments have to obtain the local energy rights. The local citizens should make a decision about whether or not to erect a utility pole and the company that will use it. Also, a locally owned company that enables the flow of solar energy (now, nuclear power) is needed. Let’s establish a public regional energy company that will try to address the problem of energy poverty. We need to demand such rights. 

Energy conversion for phase out unclear can be said to be an energy system based on small-scale, regionally decentralized renewable energy together with energy efficiency. It is naturally connected to the claim that energy should be owned and produced by local communities. In Germany, the energy revolt by the citizens is called recommunalization.

Let’s thus call the third position in the electricity privatization debate in South Korea recommunalization argument.

              Written by Jae-kak, Han (Deputy Director:
Visiting Researcher of the Environmental Policy Research Center, Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin)


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