Seoul relaxes winter coal-fired plant restrictions

South Korea's winter coal burn is expected to strengthen on the year as the government relaxes restrictions.

Of state-owned Kepco’s 53 coal-fired units, 8-16 will shut from 1 December to 28 February as part of the winter fine-dust management policy, the energy ministry said today. The ministry suspended 9-16 of 56 units in the last winter plan.

Kepco retired four coal-fired units earlier this year and launched one in June, trimming coal-fired capacity to 36.8GW from 36.9GW in December 2020. That said, daily suspensions at 8-16 units this winter could leave constraints steady on last year, while the forthcoming December-March output cap on the remaining fleet seems lower than last winter’s 80pc cap.

The cap will be placed on up to 46 units this year, implying only seven units will be suspended. The ministry also said the cap will align with power and LNG fundamentals, suggesting the rules will be flexible. The government has not yet specified the cap.

The ministry expects peak power demand to reach 90.3-93.5GW this winter, up on the 87.6-90.4GW forecast last year. The government plans to minimise maintenance and retain reserve capacity of at least 10.1GW. The ministry forecasts overall winter power supply capacity at 110.2GW. Argus calculates that availability averaged 93.2GW in December 2020-March 2021, based on Korea Power Exchange (KPX) data.

“Depending on the level of reserve, we plan to inject 9.7-13.5GW more capacity in a timely manner to ensure stable electricity supply and demand,” the ministry said.



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