Clean electricity is a key milestone on the road to net zero. To achieve this goal, coal and fossil gas generation need to be phased out urgently. This report develops a 1.5°C compatible pathway for fossil gas generation in South Korea’s power sector and two phase-out schedules for the country’s gas fleet prioritised by cost and health which meet this pathway.

South Korea’s power sector is dominated by fossil fuels, which provided over 60% of generation in 2021. While plans are being developed to reduce fossil gas consumption, current policies are not ambitious enough. Under the 10th Basic Electricity Plan, fossil gas would still provide 23% of electricity in 2030. This does not align with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.

South Korea needs to phase out gas in the power sector by 2034

In the central 1.5°C compatible pathway we produce, power sector emissions fall 90% from 2022 to 2030 and reach zero by 2034 (Figure ES1). To achieve these reductions, fossil gas generation needs to fall 60% from 2022 to 2030, and fossil gas should be phased out entirely by 2034, and as early as 2031.

A 1.5°C compatible pathway for South Korea’s electricity system
A 1.5°C compatible pathway for South Korea’s electricity system

There can be no new gas power stations or coal-to-gas conversions

In the 1.5°C compatible pathway, there is no scope for building new fossil gas units post-2023. All units which are due to be finalised post-2023 would need to be cancelled. There is also no scope for planned coal-to-gas conversions in this 1.5°C compatible pathway.

The fossil gas phase-out needs to start immediately

The transition is front-loaded, with a large number of units which need to be retired this year. We develop two phase-out schedules, which focus on maximising the economic and health benefits of the transition (Figure ES2). We identify 18 units which are phased out by the end of 2023 in both phase-out schedules. These units are old, inefficient, highly polluting and expensive.

A unit by unit phaseout schedule for fossil gas plants in South Korea
A unit by unit phase-out schedule for fossil gas plants in South Korea

South Korea has more than enough renewable resources to replace fossil fuels in the power sector and meet future demand

There is abundant renewable potential in South Korea, particularly in offshore wind and utility-scale solar PV. To meet future electricity demand and phase out fossil fuels, our illustrative pathway shows an additional 1500 TWh of renewable generation would be required by 2035. Our detailed analysis finds the country has over three times more renewable potential (5000 TWh) than projected demand.

Phasing out fossil gas in South Korea would bring a wide range of benefits, from cost savings and energy independence to reduced air pollution, improved health and new jobs in the industries of the future, as well as helping to deliver on South Korea’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.

A fossil gas phase-out by the mid-2030s is feasible but requires immediate action. Incremental action, as seen in the 10th Basic Electricity Plan, will not lead to alignment with 1.5°C or enable South Korea to reap the rewards of its renewable potential. South Korea has an opportunity to accelerate action in this critical decade for the climate. This report sets out a clear roadmap to achieving this in the power sector.

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