More renewables, less CO2, for hi-tech champion Seoul

2007-H-443-0011In 2012 a 5-year plan was launched, with a budget of $1.7 million, to mitigate the effects of climate change.

“One less Nuclear Power Plant” is Seoul’s plan to reduce energy consumption by 2 million TOE by the end of 2014 (the equivalent of an average nuclear power plant), while investing on renewable energy.

To reduce GHG emission from transport sector, Seoul launched ten years ago a No Driving Day program, which cut down annual emission by 10%.

With its 10 million citizens and some of the largest hi-tech companies in the world, Seoul, South Korea’s capital, is the largest metropolis in the developed world. The city has a massive real estate development, but despite its advanced infrastructures it has to deal with floods and landslides in its surroundings. Caused by increasingly heavy rainfall and likely to be a consequence of climate change, these floods put especially in danger more vulnerable and poor communities living on the outskirts of the metropolis.

In 2012 the city launched a five-year plan with an overall budget of $1-7 million to mitigate the effects of climate change. At the core of the plan is the collabo­ration between the public sector (including the city gover­nment), citizens and businesses to develop adaptation strategies considering various perspectives (e.g. health, water resource management, forest and ecosystem protection) based on climate change impacts and city vulnerabilities as­sessments.

Seoul intends to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% until 2030 and to ensure that 20% of the energy consumption comes from renewable sources. To achieve this goal, a number of mitigation measures are scheduled or being already undertaken.

Most of the efforts focus on the increase in power generation from renewable sources. The measures include: replacement of 65% of private sector’s and 100% of public sector’s lights with new low-energy consumption LED ones; expansion of rooftop photovoltaic mini-power plants to all buildings and creation of 10MW “solar power landmarks” in different parts of the city; measures for energy efficiency and power production from urban waste.

A comprehensive energy plan called “One Less Nuclear Plant” was launched, trying to break the city’s pattern of increasing energy consumption and actually reducing it by 2 million TOE (13% of the total) by the end of 2014, which is the amount of electricity produced by an average nuclear power plant in Korea, by the end of 2014. The goal was reached six months in advance, allowing Seoul to implement more ambitious measures to change its energy mix and reduce its dependence from fossil fuels and nuclear energy. With four active plants and 23 reactors, nuclear power is worth 22% of the total electricity consumption in Korea.

In 2011 Seoul got only 1.6% of its energy from renewables sources. Once completed, the plan is expected to yield import-substitution effects of around 1,560 barrels of crude oil for a total worth of approximately $2 billion each year starting 2014. The annual substitution of crude oil means 7.2 million tons less of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere or the creation of a forest over an area of 7,30 square kilometers.

“Our ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ plan is an investment for the future in the wake of the Fukushima disaster” said mayor Park Won Soon. “It will be the best gift from our generation to future generations”

One of the longest-running projects of GHG emissions reduction is the voluntary “No Driving Day”. Announced in 2003, the program has already reduced the city’s annual vehicle emissions rates by an encouraging 10%. The program uses incentives to enroll commuters to drop their cars for one day a week and travel to work via public transportation or other means. An electronic sticker is issued to that car which can then be monitored by radio frequency identification systems (RFID) located around the city. If throughout the year, the car is not identified as travelling on its allocated no drive day, the owner will receive a number of incentives/rewards.

In Seoul there are 3 million registered cars, and transportation is responsible for approximately 42% of the city’s CO2 emissions. Seoul is proving that a thousand small concrete projects can make the difference in reducing emissions and trying to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

Seoul is an active Member of ICLEI and reports on the carbonn Climate Registry. On 8 – 12 April 2015, it will host ICLEI’s World Congress with the them “Sustainable Solutions for an Urban Future”.

Photo: SMG