By Kim Tong-hyung
Korea has unveiled an ambitious plan to be the world's first country to convert its electricity network into ``smart grids'' that will greatly contribute to energy conservation as well as the creation of jobs and new revenue.
The high-tech nationwide electricity grid will generate a new market of 68 trillion won (about $54.5 billion) and create 500,000 new jobs annually, and reduce the country's power consumption by 3 percent by the time it is completed in 2030, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy said.
A smart grid delivers electricity from suppliers to consumers using digital technology, enabling the devices to communicate with the utility firms, which could save energy, reduce costs and increase reliability.
Many governments that are looking for ways to improve energy independence and combat global warming issues are considering these futuristic electricity networks.
Ministry officials met with business representatives and civilian experts at a forum in COEX, southern Seoul on Friday, to discuss the proposal for the national smart grid.
The attendees include industry heavyweights in electronics, telecommunications, energy, machinery and engineering, including Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics, SK Telecom, LG Powercomm, Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), Hyundai Motor and Hyundai Heavy Industries, indicating a high level of interest.
``The energy saved through the smart grid power network will be equivalent to having seven extra 1,000-megawatt (MW) nuclear power generators,'' said a ministry official, who said a roadmap plan will be finalized by November.
``A smart grid network will also give consumers more choice, for example, enabling them to pay different rates for electricity used on computers and heating. We can also introduce different electricity rates for power generated from green technology such as wind and solar power generators.''
It's too early to say how Internet protocol (IP)-based electricity network will look, or how it will affect the lives of individuals at home. However, selected residents on Jeju Island may get the first glimpse of the technology, where KEPCO is planning the country's first smart grid test bed.
KEPCO is planning to build two 10MW substation transformers and four power distribution lines near an area that includes 3,000 households, commercial districts and power generation facilities to test smart grid technologies on real electricity networks. KEPCO will finish the blueprint of its 81 billion won plan by the end of the year and begin technological research starting next year.
Enabling utility firms an accurate view of energy use would reduce around 41 million tons in carbon emissions by maximizing the efficiency of electricity transmission, the ministry said, and also allow the country to save around $10 billion in energy imports.
And by putting ``advanced smart meters'' in every Korean home, thus establishing a network that enables energy companies to tell people when it is cheapest to use electricity, household electricity bills could be cut by around 15 percent.