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“Accelerating” energy transition in Korea gives more reason to refuse dated Bylong coal mine proposal

The latest Resources and Energy Quarterly from the Office of the Chief Economist, released on 29 March, forecasts a 5 million tonne decline in per annum coal imports to South Korea over the next five years, “as energy transition accelerates.” 

The news comes as the NSW Independent Planning Commission is on the cusp of considering a damaging new coal mine by Korean power company, KEPCO – the seventh largest power generation company in the world.

KEPCO’s Australian subsidiary has insisted there will be demand for coal from the Bylong Valley, but there have been seismic changes in Korean energy policy since the project was first proposed five years ago.
  • Since the Moon government took office in May 2017, plans for two new coal-fired power plants have been scrapped, ten aged coal plants temporarily shut down during spring and regulations introduced that cap output at 42 coal plants across the country below 80% when fine dust in the atmosphere rises to harmful levels. 
  • In November 2017, the International Energy Agency’s core scenario in its World Energy Outlook, the New Policies Scenario, foresaw Korean coal imports dropping by nearly 50% to less than 60 million tonnes in 2040.
  • New restrictions on sulphur content in coal has reduced Australian exports to South Korea last year by 1.2 million tonnes.
  • In October 2018, South Chungcheong province, home to half of South Korea’s coal-fired power stations, announced it had had joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance - a coalition of governments, organisations and businesses seeking to accelerate the transition away from coal-fired power and towards clean energy sources. The province vowed to shut down 14 coal power plants that amount to 18 gigawatts of capacity by 2026 while increasing the share of renewable energy in its power mix to 48% from the current 8%. 
Lock the Gate Alliance spokesperson Georgina Woods said:

“The Bylong Coal Project was first proposed in 2014, and since that time, the world has moved on.

"We’ve signed the Paris Agreement, coal plants are being cancelled and closing. This was always the
wrong mine in the wrong place, and now it’s the wrong time.

“The Australian Government’s acknowledgement that Korea’s energy transition is accelerating gives us another reason to protect the precious farmland and water resources of the Bylong Valley from open cut mining.”

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