Seoul: A most ambitious energy transition

Seoul moves quickly. The population of South Korea’s capital nearly doubled between 1970 and 1990, from roughly 5.4 million to 10.6 million people. While population has remained constant in recent years, Seoul faces new challenges in the areas of sustainable energy, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and air quality.

To date, Seoul has already achieved impressive and unprecedented success in reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions. Between 2012 and 2014, the city reduced energy consumption by 2 million TOE (Tons of Oil Equivalent), by 2020, the city expects to cut 10 million tonnes of GHG emissions.


To identify further reductions, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) employed the Siemens City Performance Tool (CyPT) to test the performance of 46 infrastructure technologies related to buildings, transportation, and energy. “Seoul has engaged with Siemens’ CyPT to identify further capacity of emissions reduction through the deployment of new transport, energy and building technologies,” states Park Won-soon, Seoul’s mayor since 2011.


Using more than 350 data points supplied by SMG and the Seoul Institute, the Siemens CyPT Seoul 2020 report identified possible GHG emission reductions of more than 23 percent from the 2014 baseline by the year 2020; these reductions are some of the most rapid in any of the 20 cities where the CyPT has been used.

Ms. JungHyun Jung from the Strategy & Business Development department of Siemens Ltd. Seoul believes that Siemens can play an important role in helping Seoul to achieve these reductions. Jung states, “Siemens technologies can contribute to more than 15 percent of the 23 percent GHG emission savings by 2020.”

Seoul has engaged with Siemens’ CyPT to identify further capacity of emissions reduction through the deployment of new transport, energy and building technologies.
Park Won-soon, Mayor of Seoul, South Korea

Metro expansion to create up to 1,5 million jobs

Of the 46 infrastructure technologies modeled by the CyPT, 18 of them are related to transportation. The CyPT tool suggests that Seoul’s investments in transportation technology will yield the largest GHG reductions. In particular, Seoul’s proposed ten new metro lines are expected to reduce GHG emissions by approximately 1,100 Kton CO2 and add over 300,000 full-time equivalent jobs in installation, maintenance, and operations.


On a broader scale, the CyPT estimates that Seoul’s unprecedented investment in metro expansion will generate over 2.4 Mton of GHG reductions, which accounts for nearly 5 percent of total citywide emissions reductions, and will add nearly 1.5 million full-time equivalent jobs.


But even relatively smaller transportation developments are expected to help Seoul meet its GHG reduction goals. For example, According to the report, parking management systems can reduce the amount of passenger kilometers per capita due to reduced distances traveled to find parking spots.

23 building possible technologies to reduce emissions

The CyPT Seoul 2020 report included 23 building technologies that were expected to deliver a 13.6 percent reduction in building-related GHG emissions. This reduction would cut 3.6 Mton of GHG emissions – representing 7.6 percent of citywide reductions – through the replacement of commercial and residential lights and the utilization of technologies that optimize the use of spaces and automate functions.


According to the CyPT, building automation will be the single largest contributor to these savings, accounting for an 8.1 percent reduction in GHG emissions.

JungHyung Jung from Siemens Ltd. Seoul reports that one of Siemens’ strengths is building automation and control systems (BACS), which save building energy automation costs by keeping thermal and electrical usage to a minimum, which eventually plays an important role in reducing the gases CO2, PM10, and NOx.

Life-cycle management service for electric vehicles

After nationwide rolling brownouts in the summer of 2011, and with questions raised regarding Seoul’s reliance on nuclear energy after the events in Fukushima, Japan, earlier that same year, the city embarked on one of the world’s most ambitious energy transitions.


The CyPT Seoul 2020 report suggests that Seoul’s citywide GHG reductions would reach 3.4 percent through investments in new combined heat and power district energy systems and solar photovoltaic installations. To that end, Seoul Energy Corporation hopes to complete two large-scale projects by the year 2020 that will help facilitate these reductions.


First, construction of the Magok Combined Heat and Power Plant will provide 75,000 households with green district cooling and heating, increasing the total number to 284,000. Second, expansion of renewable energy facilities such as solar photovoltaic generation facilities will generate 204.6 megawatts of electricity by 2020, accounting for the electricity use of 64,000 four-member households.

Further, by 2018, Seoul Energy Corporation will increase its supply of electric vehicles to 10,000 and will develop a life-cycle management service that manages everything from the purchase, maintenance, and recharging of electric vehicles, to their eventual reselling and scrapping.


Seoul Energy Corporation plans to start a pilot project called “Solar Station,” which stores leftover energy from solar cells to be reused at another time.

A shift without global precedent

The speed and commitment with which Seoul has shifted away from nuclear energy and toward sustainable energy is without global precedent. Life in Seoul moves quickly. The CyPT Seoul 2020 report has shown that a 23% reduction in GHG emissions over the 2014 baseline is possible by the year 2020.Technologies, especially those related to rail-bound urban transport, smart buildings, intelligent traffic, eMobility, and distributed energy can contribute to more than 15% of these reductions.


Author: Walter Foreman, freelance writer in Korea

Picture credits: Siemens AG

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