Electricity generation in Korea is heavily dependent on coal, which represents over 40% of total generation. The vast majority of the remaining electricity generation derives from natural gas and nuclear energy, in roughly equal shares. Renewable energies account for a growing but still small proportion, and are expected to reach 21.6% of total electricity generation by 2030. Korea’s power grid is an isolated system with no cross-border transmission lines; therefore, electricity demand is met entirely through local production.
Korea has an electricity emergency response manual outlining response procedures in the event of an electricity supply emergency. There are four levels of electricity supply emergency: concern, alert, caution and serious. Depending on the level of emergency, demand restraint measures, load-shedding and the use of black-start generators can be ordered.
Network: transmission and distribution
Korea Power Exchange (KPX), which operates under the umbrella of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE), is the sole transmission system operator (TSO) for electricity supply in Korea. Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), also majority-owned by the government, is responsible for transmission facility management as the asset owner.
The national power grid is an isolated system; there are no cross-border transmission lines. In the long-term, network interconnections, such as the Asian Super Grid project, might allow electricity trade between Northeast Asian countries, contributing to the security of supply.
Since January 2017, the installation of an energy storage system (ESS) system is mandatory for newly built public buildings. Batteries are associated with small-scale photovoltaic power generation plants and KEPCO regulates frequency on the network using its ESS. ESS’s batteries are associated with small-scale photovoltaic power generation plants and KEPCO regulates frequency on the network using its ESS. The market of ESS has been growing quickly, driven by government policy.
Korea's electricity infrastructure, 2022
Security of electricity supply is regulated by the Electricity Utility Act (EUA).
Korea has an electricity emergency response handbook outlining response procedures in the event of a supply emergency, and each company involved in the sector is required to establish its own Emergency Operation Procedure (EOP), which is to be updated several times per year.
If the reserve margin comes below 4000 MW, the emergency monitoring system is activated, which has four emergency levels depending on the reserve margin: concern, alert, caution and serious.
Depending on the level of emergency, demand restraint measures, load-shedding and the use of black-start generators can be ordered.
Security of electricity supply is regulated by the EUA. In the event of an emergency, under article 29 of EUA, MOTIE may issue supply orders to electricity utilities to directly supply specific consumers. The government’s role is centred on coordination and communication among the various stakeholders.
KPX conducts power shortage exercises regularly. In addition to power shortage exercises, blackout restoration exercises are conducted three times per year by the utility companies.
Demand side response
Korea has implemented a demand management project that addresses both efficiency improvements and load management. The project is expected to result in a target generation for 2030 of 572 TWh, and 11% below the reference generation scenario of the 10th Basic Plan for Long-Term Electricity Supply and Demand, which covered the period from 2022 to 2036.
The Korean government is also working actively to promote and deploy smart grid technologies. The government plans to deploy smart metres to all 22 million households by 2024.
To increase the resilience of energy infrastructure, risks are included in the design of strategic facilities, for instance by adding earthquake-resistant criteria for nuclear power plants.
Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand (BPLE)
For long-term security of supply, MOTIE creates every two years a master plan for long-term electricity supply and demand, known as the Basic Plan for Long-term Electricity Supply and Demand (BPLE). Planning of new generation installations, major transmission lines and substation facilities are covered in this long-term strategy.
The 10th BPLE has the primary objective of guaranteeing a stable power supply and demand. The Plan targets a reserve margin of 20% between 2023 and 2026, which will increase to 21% in the medium-term from 2027 to 2030 and to 22% in the long-term time frame 2031-2036. The reserve margin consists of back-up generation facilities to meet future peak demand. In the BPLE, two components in the reserve margin are outlined: a minimum reserve to address generation variabilities of wind and solar power, and a reserve for uncertainty to cover peak demand or mitigate risks due to delays during installation of generation facilities.