Air conditioners off as South Korea faces power crisis

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South Korea ordered sweltering government offices to turn off their air conditioning as two power plants stopped operations on Monday, a day after a minister warned of an imminent national energy crisis.

The timing could hardly be worse with South Korea in the grip of an extended heatwave and temperatures nudging 34 degrees Celsius. One Seoul city government employee described her office as “one big dim sum basket”.

The heatwave is also smashing records in Japan, where the mercury hit 41 degrees Celsius on Monday.

The coal-powered Dangjin III plant, with a capacity of 500 megawatts, was taken offline on Monday by mechanical issues and will likely remain shut for a week, a spokesman for the state power distributor Korea Power Exchange (KPE) said.

Technical problems also shut down the nearby Seocheon plant. Although operations resumed after an hour, the plant, also coal-fired, is only working at half its 200-megawatt capacity, the spokesman said.

The shutdowns come amid a lengthy disruption in South Korea’s nuclear power sector.

“We are facing potentially our worst power crisis,” Trade, Industry and Energy Minister Yoon Sang-Jick said on Sunday.

“We may have to carry out a rolling blackout… if one single power plant goes out of operation,” Yoon said, appealing to factories, households and shops to curb consumption over the next three days.

The last time the Seoul government was forced to resort to nationwide load shedding was in September 2011, when unexpectedly high demand pushed power reserves to their lowest level in decades.

The unannounced blackouts hit more than six million households and businesses and left 3,000 people trapped in elevators.

The resulting outcry forced the then-energy minister to resign.

The government has estimated that a future power outage on a similar scale would result in economic losses of around 11 trillion won ($10 billion).

National reserves of 4.0 gigawatts are considered the minimum necessary to guarantee a steady power supply.

If they drop below 2.0 gigawatts, it triggers an automatic alert requiring all government offices to turn off air conditioners, lights and any non-essential devices.

In a pre-emptive move on Monday, the energy ministry ordered such measures effective immediately, even though the key reserve mark had not been breached.

Describing the current situation as “extremely urgent”, the ministry also ordered government offices to turn off water coolers and staff to use staircases where possible, rather than elevators.

The ministry added it would tighten monitoring on shopping malls, which face fines for bringing indoor temperatures below 26 degrees Celsius.

Higher than normal summer temperatures — forecast to last for at least another week — have resulted in a sustained energy consumption spike.

At the same time, South Korea’s nuclear industry is struggling to emerge from a mini crisis which has forced the shutdown of numerous reactors — either for repair or as the result of a scandal over forged safety certificates.

The country has 23 reactors which are meant to meet more than 30 per cent of electricity needs. Currently six reactors are out of operation.

The warnings and directives for curbing consumption have been met with public anger, with many blaming the government for failing to put adequate safeguards in place.

“This is hardly the first hot summer season we’ve had. What has the government been doing since last summer, or the summer before?” said one comment on a news portal carrying Monday’s ministry announcement.

“Why don’t they ask power-guzzling Hyundai, Samsung or LG factories to save energy, instead of squeezing the public every summer?” seethed another reader.

In Japan, the weather agency issued heat warnings for 38 of the 47 prefectures, telling people to keep hydrated and use their air conditioners.

At least nine people died from heatstroke over the weekend, Japanese officials and media reports said.

The fierce temperatures come as Tokyo’s energy costs have soared after Japan shut down its nuclear reactors in the wake of the Fukushima atomic crisis two years ago.

The shutdown forced Tokyo to turn to expensive fossil-fuel alternatives to plug the gap.

Source : Channel News Asia | August 12, 2013

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About thomasdinnocenzi

Thomas D'Innocenzi is a highly accomplished, results-focused senior international executive with extensive experience in global sourcing and market development worldwide to meet evolving business needs. Tom has proven ability in implementing and managing profitable global sourcing operations worldwide. Extensive experience in international market development operations to accommodate rapid growth. Skilled in building top-performing teams, benchmarking performance, and restricting organizations to improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. Experienced transition leader and change agent. As principal of Nova Advisors, LLC I’ve assembled an exemplary team that brings with them the knowledge and experience gained from starting up a Global Sourcing program with multiple Fortune 500 companies as well as the largest supplier network throughout the Asia-Pacific region. We have experience and expertise in more than a thousand medical and pharmaceutical products in manufacturing and sourcing at the best value. The right product, the right price point and the right branding fueled these successes that resulted in double-digit growth for top line sales and bottom line net margins for our customers. What sets us apart: • Our reach includes a large network of suppliers & manufacturers spanning 13 countries in Asia-Pacific region • We understand the manufacturing process and the business of the supplier and the buyer • Our company culture is based on quality assurance and our process is based on local quality control Our commitment is to be your partner offering the best products and services at the lowest cost. Contact me to discuss how we can make the global marketplace work for you. thomas@novaadvisors.com In addition, I am open to discussing opportunities in global sourcing, international marketing & sales, logistics and medical/pharma in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines & Japan. Aside from my work I enjoy piano, astronomy, physics, and assisting my daughters with their studies. SPECIALTIES: Global Sourcing, Supply Chain Management, Business Development, Marketing, Logistics, Global Networking, Market Development, Healthcare Solutions, Pharmaceuticals, Medical Devices, Technology, Asia, Southeast Asia, US and Canada
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