29 July, 2021

Employment opportunities from a coal-to-renewables transition in South Korea


Anne Zimmer, Jonas Hörsch, Charlotte Plinke, Gaurav Ganti, Seukyoung Lee, Himalaya Bir Shrestha, Matthew Gidden, Lara Welder, Jeehye Park, Tina Aboumahboub, Deborah Ramalope, Bill Hare

In this work, we assess the direct employment effects at the national and provincial level for two scenarios focusing on coal in the power sector:

  • a Current Policies scenario (CPol scenario) that follows South Korea’s 9th Basic Plan for Electricity Demand and Supply, which lays out its planned capacity for its power sector, and
  • a Coal-to-Renewables (and storage) transition scenario (CtR scenario), where coal is phased out from the electricity system by 2029 and replaced by renewables and storage.

The provincial level analysis in this work could inform discussions on alternative local employment options to facilitate a just transition in South Korea.

Key findings

  • The estimated average job potential of the Coal-to-Renewables scenario exceeds that of the Current Policy scenario by almost 2.8 times from 2020 to 2030, summing up all job types and technologies that were assessed.
  • Overall, in the Coal-to-Renewables scenario, we find South Korea could create more than 62,000 more jobs per year on average in the first half of this decade, and more than 92,000 jobs per year in the second half of the decade, when compared to current policy plans.
  • We find job losses related to coal phase-out would be outweighed by newly created jobs in renewable energy and related storage technologies for all provinces across South Korea.
  • Importantly, even provinces reliant on coal could obtain a net benefit from newly created jobs in construction and installation, operation and maintenance of solar PV and wind as well as related storage, outweighing fossil fuel-related job losses.
  • Provinces in which coal power plants are located could boost their employment potential by a factor of at least 1.3 (Incheon, Gangwon-do), 1.4 (Chungcheongnam-do, Gyeongsangnam-do) and 3.1 (Jeollanam-do) by taking advantage of their renewable energy potential, compared to current policy plans.
  • Roughly 42,500 additional jobs per year on average could be created in local manufacturing of renewable energy technology parts and in relation to offshore wind and hydrogen, which are not assigned to provinces in our analysis, and not included in the provincial level job-gains.
  • The overall job creation potential in the operation and maintenance of newly installed renewable and storage installations alone could outweigh the job losses from closing all coal power plants across South Korea by 2029.
  • Policies to facilitate green job creation are essential to generate support for a coal phase-out before 2030 in South Korea, in line with the Paris Agreement.

Technical Annex: Employment opportunities from a coal-to-renewables transition in South Korea