Korean companies struggle to join RE100 in market short of clean energy


Korea’s major companies appear to have difficulty committing themselves to 100% renewable energy, owing to a lack of solar, wind, and other cleaner energy options, the country’s industry officials said last week.

Reuters reported in April, citing a person familiar with Samsung Electronics, that the company was likely to join RE100 in May. However, in response to reporters’ questions, the chipmaker’s Vice Chairman Han Jong-hee said last week that it will have to “wait a little more.”

To step toward zero-carbon future, Samsung Electronics has already started using clean energy in its operations in the United States and Europe.

The corporation informed the presidential transition committee of its plan to join the RE100 initiative in April, but it has yet to make a formal announcement on the topic, despite pressure from global institutional investors and its clients, such as Apple and Google.

Fossil fuels account for more than 60% of total electricity generation in South Korea. Samsung alone utilized 20% more energy than the country’s total solar and wind power capacity due to energy-intensive semiconductor production lines.

Semiconductor companies like TSMC and Intel are already on the member list of RE100. World renowned Korean firms SK Hynix and Hyundai Motor have both joined the initiative in recent years.

They have, however, sparked debate by proposing using liquefied natural gas (LNG) to generate electricity as a less polluting alternative. SK hynix has constructed LNG-fired power stations in Icheon, Gyeonggi Province, and Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, which was strongly protested by environmental activists.

As the Climate Group warned about the possibility of Hyundai Motor’s RE100 membership being revoked, the automaker said that it will gradually phase out LNG in favor of hydrogen-powered power generation.

In light of this, some energy experts questioned whether Korean enterprises could participate in the RE100 initiative. “What matters to us is Zero Carbon Energy 100 (ZC100), not RE100,” said Yoo Seung-hoon, a professor at the Department of Energy Policy at Seoul National University of Science and Technology.

RE100 is one of the methods for achieving the goal of carbon neutrality, not the goal itself, Yoo added. ZC100, according to him, refers to efforts to eliminate carbon emissions from power generation using a variety of technologies, such as carbon capture and storage, rather than solely relying on renewable energy sources.

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