South Korea to cap operations of coal, oil power plants due to air pollution

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea will cap operations of some coal and oil-fired power plants at 80 percent for the first time on Wednesday as most cities including its capital Seoul issued an air pollution advisory, its energy ministry said on Tuesday.

The measure kicks in when an air pollution advisory is issued and the concentration of fine particulate matter with diameters of less than 2.5 micrometers (PM 2.5) is expected to exceed 50 micrograms per cubic meter until the following day.

Seven coal-fired power plants with a total capacity of 820 megawatts (MW) and four oil-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 280 MW will lower their operations from 6 a.m. (2100 GMT) to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, the ministry said in a statement.

The South Korean government has introduced the cap on a trial basis since October and plans to fully introduce it from 2019, the statement added.

South Korea, Asia’s fourth largest economy, has been grappling with worsening air quality. The government halted operations of five old coal-fired power plants from March to June to reduce air pollution.

Coal power generates about 40 percent of the country’s total electricity, followed by nuclear and gas. Last year, South Korea unveiled its power supply plan, with an aim to boost the share of renewable energy for power generation to 20 percent by 2030, while scaling back dependence on coal power.

(The story corrects to Tuesday from Wednesday in first paragraph)

Reporting By Jane Chung; editing by David Evans