In pursuit of low-carbon growth (28)
The aim is to change the entire base of the energy economy. This in essence is a new paradigm for economic development.
The following is a presentation made during the Global Green Growth Summit held in Seoul May 10-11.
By Young Soo-gil
My father was a lawyer so I did not learn much about green growth from him. But I have been learning a lot since the President Lee Myung-bak declared low-carbon growth as Korea’s vision for development for the next 60 years.
Environmental consciousness found its way into Korean policies in the early 1990s. But we have also been pursuing energy policies under basic energy planning along the line of low-carbon strategy which happened about four years ago.
That was the beginning of Korea’s “green growth” big bang. And this vision is a long-term one.
This represents a whole economic approach to the concept of green growth. Of course, the core components are environmental protection, energy efficiency and the introduction of renewable energies.
But every economic activity is based on some kind of energy, ranging from agriculture to forestry, fisheries and manufacturing and services.
Our aim is to change the entire base of the energy economy in activities. This in essence is a new paradigm for economic development.
The first thing we did as a result was to create the presidential commission on green growth which involves 14 ministries. That number of ministries presents the scope of Korea’s green growth policies. The 14 organizations include the Prime Minister’s Office.
So this green growth committee consists of 13 ministers and the Prime Minister, plus high-level participation from the private sector.
Young Soo-gil, seated from left, waits to be introduced by the moderator at the Global Green Growth Summit held at the Lotte Hotel in downtown Seoul, Friday.
/ Korea Times
Role of private sector
Why do we have the private sector? Because pursuing policies effectively requires public-private sector consultation.
So we created this pan-national coordinating body and we have been meeting once every two months in the presence of the President Lee Myung-bak.
Whatever has been agreed is given to ministries for implementation and they are brought back to Cabinet-level meetings where they become formal policies.
In order to guide all these deliberations, we discuss and pursue policies against the national green growth strategy which gives 10-policy directions on how individual policy should be geared.
Below that, we have 50 specific policy tasks and it is the implementation of these that constitutes the process of pursing green growth.
We have adopted the long-term vision of rising as one of the five ranking green economies by 2015. This gives us some sense of destination and inspiration.
Then we have three strategic objectives: Go for low carbon, reducing greenhouse gases and that gives motivation for everything that should happen under the umbrella of green growth, like investing in green technologies and commercializing them in industries.
That also gives guidance to what we should do about our lifestyles. We have to change them. What about land-use planning and urban transportation planning? All that is guided by the principle goals assigned to individual sectors.
And of course another component is adapting to climate change that is bound to happen to some extent, whatever the world is doing about global warming.
So there is that adaptation component. For example, we have been rehabilitating our four main rivers, which is a typical adaptation project that we have been undertaking.
Over the past three years, we have been examining three sectors covered by each strategy. We have a five-year plan leading up to 2013 for the implementation of the long-term strategy.
In this way, we have laid the institutional foundation which includes the framework act on low-carbon green growth which enables and authorizes the government to intervene in the market with regulations on one hand and supportive measures on the other.
The priority goal has been to implement the greenhouse gas reduction target or the period up to 2020, and in order to implement what we call the Greenhouse Gas Target Management System.
We have identified 470 or so emitters and assigned them greenhouse gas emission targets for next year. In another year, the targets will be increased and so forth.
In that way, we are already moving to bring down the emission of greenhouse gases but this is a primitive form, a precursor to the greenhouse emission trading scheme to be introduced in 2015.
It has not been politically easy to pass this legislation but the National Assembly somehow passed this bill recently with unanimous support. So we are all set there.
We have also been taking measures to develop and deploy renewable energy. Right now, renewable energy accounts for 2.5 percent of the total in the primary energy mix and our goal is to increase this to the 11 percent level or more by 2030.
We now have a portfolio standard RPS and power producers are striving to meet their own targets in this regard.
Probably more important are our efforts to improve the efficiency of energy use, considering energy efficiency as the fifth source, as we call it.
New growth engine
And in order to secure leverage on all those goals to create new growth engines, we have been investing in research and development of green technologies and their commercialization.
We have managed to improve our level of technological competence since 2007 and over the past three years and our goal is to join the top-tier countries by 2030 and we have been making pretty good progress.
Major businesses have been investing in the so-called new and renewable energy sectors as a matter of the highest priority. As a result, the amount of investment by big businesses has been increasing at a rate of nearly 80 percent for the first three years (since 2007). It has slowed down a little bit now.
We believe that we have made good progress in terms of the actual outcome in the development of green technologies and I think we have joined the ranks of the top 10 countries in this area.
We have the largest electrical vehicle carrier in the world, We have installed the largest tidal power plant and we are second in bringing electrical vehicles to the market.
As a result, there has been a very rapid increase in the production and supply of these renewable energies although from a very low basis.
And the number of firms in new and renewable energy doubled during the first three years with sales increasing seven-fold.
The outcome has been pretty good except that we still find ourselves not so efficient in the use of energy. Energy efficiency at the macro level is rather below the average level in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development).
Now, why is that? Our businesses are at the micro level in energy efficiency, like steel maker POSCO. The problem is that our economy, too industrial compared to services and manufacturing, is highly energy-intensive.
Consequently, we have to shift our industry structure. The problem is that this is something that takes time and this is the challenge we are facing now, not something that we can achieve over a few years.
We are trying to bring in all kinds of measures to improve energy efficiency in the industrial sector and in the sector of households this year and this is proving to be tough challenge.
Energy recycling is the recovery process of utilizing energy that would normally be wasted, usually by converting it into electricity or thermal energy.
Undertaken at manufacturing facilities, power plants, and large institutions such as hospitals and universities, it significantly increases efficiency, thereby reducing energy costs and greenhouse gas pollution simultaneously.
The process is noted for its potential to mitigate global warming profitably. This work is usually done in the form of combined heat and power (also called cogeneration) or waste heat recovery.
Waste heat recovery is a process that captures excess heat that would normally be discharged at
manufacturing facilities and converts it into electricity and steam, or returns energy to the manufacturing process in the form of heated air, water, glycol, or oil.
A waste heat recovery boiler contains a series of water-filled tubes placed throughout the area where heat is released. When high-temperature heat meets the boiler, steam is produced, which in turn powers a turbine that creates electricity.
Young Soo-gil has been chairman of the Presidential Committee on Green Growth since its founding in 2009. He also serves on the Council for Green Growth Leaders launched by the Monday Morning in Copenhagen in 2010 and cochairs the Advisory Boaord for the Green Growth Fofum launched by the Danish government in 2011. Young graduated from Seoul National University and did his Ph.D. in economics at Johns Hopkins University.