Korea's power production capability outpacing transmission infrastructure

By Yonhap
  • Published : Sept 24, 2017 - 17:23
  • Updated : Sept 24, 2017 - 17:23
South Korea's power production growth has outpaced its ability to effectively send electricity to consumers, official industry data showed Sunday.

According to findings released by the electric power statistics, the country's installed generating capacity surged 61.6 percent from 66 gigawatts in 2006 to 106 GW last year. During the same period the capacity of power lines to transmit electricity grew just 16.6 percent.

In 2006 the country had 29,276 circuit kilometers (c-km) of power lines, with numbers standing at 33,635 c-km in 2016.

The difference can also be checked in terms of annual growth. In the last 10 years, the country's power generation capacity grew an average of 4.9 percent per year, while corresponding numbers for the transmission expanded 1.5 percent.
Dangjin combined cycle power plant in South Chungcheong Province. (Yonhap)

Industry observers said that weakness in power transmission can be a problem going forward, since most of the country's electricity producing facilities are removed from urban centers.

"It takes time and money to build power transmission infrastructure, so things must be built up in accordance with set schedules," a source, who declined to be identified said. He pointed out that there has generally been a lack of expansion in power line infrastructure in the past decade.

To build a kilometer of transmission infrastructure cost 12 billion won ($10.5 million), while getting 10 km of line can take upwards to a year.

Others in the industry, and related think tanks said that inadequate transmission network would effectively force power generation plants to curtail production. This they said has already occurred in places like the Taean power generation complex some 150 km south of Seoul, that has a mix of coal-fired thermal power and more cleaner coal gasification plants as well as some solar power generation units.

Reflecting such challenges there has been a trend to build cogeneration plant that simultaneously produces electricity and heat using a fuel such as natural gas, and small scale solar power generation. Such a plant can be built near population centers and can do away with the need for transmission infrastructure.

"The country needs to maintain a balance on power generation and transmission so as not to waste resources and maintain the ability to meet the country's energy needs going forward," a manager at a local power plant said. (Yonhap)