Energy Shortfall Prompts S. Korea to Pull A/C, Lighting in Public Offices

South Korea flagA heatwave in South Korea, coupled with a scandal in the country’s nuclear industry that has forced several reactors’ closure, is causing severe power shortages and forcing office managers and farmers to take drastic steps to cut energy use and find new sources of power, reports the Financial Times.

In May, the South Korean government ordered the suspension of three of the country’s reactors after it emerged that two of them were using control cables with falsified safety credentials. The Asian country usually gets around a third of its electricity from nuclear power generation, according to Reuters. The subsequent energy shortfall has been confounded by a recent heatwave that set a national temperature record of 102.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the southern town of Gimhae last week, the FT reports.

Seoul this week took the unprecedented step of banning lighting and air conditioning from all public offices in a bid to preserve precious national energy reserves. The reserves are now below 4 million kWh – more than 20 percent lower than the level considered safe by South Korea’s energy ministry, the FT reports.

Samsung Electronics is enforcing a minimum temperature in its offices of 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 degrees Fahrenheit) during peak hours.

The energy shortfall is also threatening the country’s agriculture industry. Chicken farmers are seeking backup generators to power the massive cooling fans used to keep their birds cool in the hot summer months in the event of a power cut. If the fans cease operation for even 30 minutes all the chickens would die, according to generator salesman Bang Eun-chul. Perhaps unsurprisingly the salesman has seen a significant uptick in the number of calls he receives from farmers, the FT reports.

The California power grid avoided blackouts in early June despite a heat wave and a nuclear plant outage. The state’s biggest nuclear plant, PG&E’s 1,122- MW Diablo Canyon Power Plant, shut down on June 27 before the heat wave started, resuming activity just prior to peak load on July 2 as the temperatures started to cool, Reuters reported at the time.

In response to the high temperatures and the Diablo rector shutting down, the California ISO issued a “flex alert” for July 1-2, asking power customers in Northern California to conserve power and help avoid blackouts. This was the ISO’s second flex alert in 2013, according to Reuters.

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