One Less Nuclear Power Plant

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, Community / Citizen Group

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2012/04

The initiative aims at reducing energy consumption and increasing renewable energy production to compensate for one nuclear power plant

This ambitious pioneer project is one of the largest of its kind, addressing political as well as technical challenges to effectively solve Seoul's energy problems. It encompasses citizen participation, public campaigns, adaptation of infrastructure, and a variety of other measures directed at sustainable energy production and consumption.

One Less Nuclear Power Plant is based on a comprehensive long-term strategy, seeking to compensate for at least one nuclear power plant with the capacity of 2 million Tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE) by 2014. The precise two-fold strategy intends to save energy, produce renewable energy (such as solar energy), and increase electric self-sufficiency from 2.8% in 2011 to 20 % in 2020.

To achieve these goals, a comprehensive 10 Key Actions Plan has been set up. Measures include a set of 78 projects in 6 Policy categories with a total budget of US$ 2.5 billion or 3.24 trillion Won.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Seoul , South Korea

Size and population development
The city of Seoul covers a total surface area of 605.21 square kilometres. In 2016, the population was recorded at 10.29 million, with a density of approximately 17,000 people per square kilometre. The sprawling metropolitan area boasts a much larger population at 25.6 million. The population of the city has been decreasing since the early 1990s, due to the high cost of living, urban sprawl to satellite cities and an aging population. (source: world population view)

Population composition
Seoul has a homogenous population, as the majority of residents are Korean. There are, however, small minorities of expatriates, Japanese, Americans and Chinese living in Seoul. The two major religions in Seoul are Christianity and Buddhism. Other religions include Muism (indigenous religion) and Confucianism.

Main functions
Seoul, officially Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. The city is located on the Han River in the north-western part of the country, 60 km inland from the Yellow Sea and is surrounded by a mountainous and hilly landscape. The city contains five UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the cultural, economic, and political centre of South Korea.

Main industries / business
Seoul is the business and financial hub of South Korea and is ranked as one of the largest metropolitan economies in the world. The traditional, labour-intensive manufacturing industries have been continuously replaced by information technology, electronics and assembly-type of industries, however, food and beverage production, as well as printing and publishing remained among the core industries. Seoul hosts large concentration of headquarters of International companies and banks, including 15 companies on the fortune 500 list such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai. Seoul is among the world leaders in internet connectivity, and has the world's highest fibre-optic broadband penetration and highest global average internet speeds of 26.1 Mbit/s.

Sources for city budget
Seoul draws its budget for public expenditure largely from taxes, fees, fines and operating revenues.

Administrative structure
The Seoul Metropolitan Government is the executive branch of government and the Seoul Metropolitan Council is the legislative body. The administrative structure contains three tiers: city (si), district (gu), and village (dong). The mayor of the metropolitan government and the mayors of the districts are elected to four-year terms. Serving under the mayors at both levels are vice mayors and directors of bureaus, offices, and divisions. The villages into which each district is divided provide services to the residents within their administrative areas. The Seoul Metropolitan Council is headed by a chairman and two vice chairmen and includes standing committees, special committees, and a secretariat; it has more than 100 members, who serve four-year terms. Most council members are elected to represent their respective district; 10 other members are elected on the basis of proportional representation.

One less nuclear power plant is a reaction to regional and international developments in the field of energy-production and consumption. The project has been assessed in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and the international discourse about nuclear safety following the incident. That year, a devastating Tsunami caused the meltdown of three nuclear reactors in a power plant in Fukushima, Japan, leaving areas in the vicinity exposed to high degrees of nuclear radiation.

Additionally, Seoul was hit by power blackouts in September 2011 revealing the growing demand for self-sufficient energy supply in the region (in the same year energy consumption in Seoul also increased by 7,9% compared to 2010). Adding to the already disputed public debate, a scandal involving fake safety tests and corruption struck the country. Moreover, safety issues have forced operators to shut down several nuclear reactors starting in 2013.

The project thus reflects the growing public awareness regarding safe and sustainable energy-production. On a more global scale and in line with the declaration for climate change mitigation set up by ICLEI, One Less Nuclear Power Plant also takes a stance for climate change mitigation by reducing the city's energy demand by 2 million Tonnes of oil equivalent (TOE),  corresponding to one nuclear power plant by 2014. Through this strategy, Seoul seeks to become a healthier and safer city and an international beacon for sustainable energy production. In terms of economic benefits, 40.000 jobs as well as $ 1.8bn are hoped to be generated over the course of the project.

One Less Nuclear Power Plant was announced and publicly promoted by Mayor Park Won Soon, who became chair of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change (WMCCC) in 2012. To emphasize its participatory and inclusive approach, citizens and organisations were asked to state their opinions and demands on energy production and consumption on more than 20 occasions. A commission consisting of 17 representatives from the civil society and private organisations was additionally created.

Above measures resulted in 10 Key Action Plans:

1) Sunlight plants on rooftops etc.

This field of action includes alteration of 10,000 buildings or more to produce 290 MW from solar energy. Also, "Sunlight power stations for profit sharing" will invest 100% of their profit in energy welfare for economically vulnerable people; 25 energy independent communities will be developed by 2015 and "Seoul Solar Maps" will help indicate potentials for retrofitting.

2) Hydro fuel cell stations & small-scale hydro plants

Hydro fuel cell stations with an energy supply of 230 MW in 131 sites will be created by 2014 to ensure a constant source of power even in case of emergencies. In addition, small scale hydro plants will be constructed along the river with a capacity of 1 MW. This measure reflects the need for flexible and individualised energy needs.

Seoul will also implement a "Smart Grid"= new smart metres for households to help consumers with efficiency issues and energy reduction. Another innovative instrument is power-generating sports equipment in fitness centres.

3) Building Retrofit Program

Despite providing buildings with solar energy, a range of building regulations will help improve the energy performance of 12.000 buildings.

4) City of Smart Lights

7,815,000 LED lights will be installed in public buildings and spaces replacing old energy consuming lights. This instrument is/was made possible by a Memorandum of Understanding between Korea LED Association and LG electronics reducing the costs to 40% of the original market price. Costs for LED lights will be recovered in the course of 3.5 years through reduced energy fees.

5) Urban space redesign

Future urban planning will make use of the compact city approach. Energy caps in reference to each development unit, expansion of public transport, and incentives such as floor area ratios complement this field of action.

6) Energy caps for new buildings

In addition to energy caps for development units, new residential and commercial buildings will adhere to energy caps as well as applying a window to wall ratio below 50% or incentives for floor area ratios.

7) Car-Sharing

Seoul recognizes and encourages the ideological and structural shift from ownership to car- sharing/carpooling in private mobility. To strengthen public transport, this strategy also supports new bus lanes and eco-friendly devices and vehicles.

8) Green jobs

This measure concerns economic benefits to be generated by promoting sustainable energies and follows a long term approach. A Green Start-up Creation Fund (40 billion KRW) supports appr. 100 experts and 1,000 field workers as well as small and medium enterprises in energy industries through tax discounts or audits etc. Moreover, a Job Expo enhances exchange between companies and future employees.

9) Energy-saving green lifestyle

Important pillars of One Less Nuclear Power Plant are public energy-education programs and voluntary actions. Therefore, a Green Leaders Group (5000 Green Leaders by 2014) will be established. So called Energy Guardian Angels (students, 10,000 by 2014) will promote sustainable energy and support citizens.

To improve the implementation process and accentuate different complementing facets, there will be pilot zones with different themes in every district.

10) Seoul Natural Energy Foundation

This organisation will ensure and monitor successful implementation and organisation of policies.

In addition to the 10 key actions, Seoul makes use of other instruments such as:

- a video visualising key ideas (

- the mascot Dongeuri the Sunlight Angel (found in the pictures list)

- slogans to improve recognisability

The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative requires a high investment level to implement an energy production centered on solar power. In June 2014 the private sector had already invested a total of KRW 300 billion (US$ 292m.) for the production of new and renewable energy. Through a Memorandum of Understanding with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co., Ltd. in 2012, the Seoul Municipal Government obtained KRW 230 billion (US$ 224 m.) to finance new fuel cell stations. These plants use hydrogen as fuel to help securing energy supply in the city. Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. accorded an additional 63.5 billion KRW (US$ 62 m.) to finance 3762 new solar power stations.

Through direct investments and subsidy payments, SMG has expanded the installation of PV power plants in schools to 117 locations. SMG also provided loans for a PV power plant with capacity of 150kW or smaller at a preferential annual interest rate of 1.75%.

The Seoul Municipal Government mobilized also non-financial resources to foster the production of solar energy. For instance, four cooperatives had the possibility to use municipal land for the installation of new PV power stations. Moreover, the SMG decided to shorten the period to obtain a license for a PV power plant from 60 to 30 days.

SMG surpassed its 2 million TOE goal for the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative by the end of 2014, recording 2.04 million TOE in the first half of 2014. Three fields of action contributed to the achievement of this goal: energy production, use of energy and energy conservation efforts.

  1. Energy production: SMG saved a total of 259,533 TOE: 57,403 TOE by securing decentralized energy sources such as PV panels, 119,218 TOE through the recovery of wastewater heat, and 82,912 TOE from the environmental impact assessment of new buildings.
  2. Efficient use of energy: SMG recorded a reduction of 869,024 TOE: 352,098 TOE through the energy consumption cap for new buildings; 192,304 TOE through the Building Retrofit Project; 201,252TOE through LED replacement, and; 123,370 TOE through eco-friendly transportation.
  3. Citizen’s active participation in energy conservation efforts: SMG realized the greatest reduction of 910,285 TOE: 777,376 TOE through the Eco-Mileage program, indoor temperature control, etc.; 55,302 TOE through energy saving in the public sector, and; 77,607 TOE through recycling.

Moreover, the One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative boosted the LED industry in the region by replacing all subway station lights and thanks to the compulsory installation of LED lights for new municipal buildings and facilities. It also positively affected the creation of new jobs related to manufacturing and installation of PV power plants and fuel cells. The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative is also the citizens’ action plan on energy issues. In a survey conducted in March 2014, 71% responded that they knew about the initiative. In 2013, 47% of the city’s households (1.68 million) took part in the Eco-Mileage program as members and 30,000 students acted as Energy Guardian Angels.

In 2014, the national government published a long-term plan for 2035, restricting the share of nuclear energy to no more than 29% of the overall primary energy mix. However, public declarations of this kind conceal the fact that the country can still build new reactors if the overall energy demand increases. In fact, recent plans of the national government to build new nuclear power plants stand in stark contrast to Seoul's efforts and are likely to undermine the scope of the project. These contradictory developments are linked to regional and international economic issues. Nuclear industries are an important pillar for South Korea's domestic economy and energy supply. Companies such as the state-run Korea Electric Power Corporation, called Kepco, seek to increase their share in the global market for nuclear industries by strengthening their own exports. Similar to other countries willing to promote sustainable energy production despite relying heavily on nuclear energy, such as Germany, stakeholders from the industry and a growing demand for energy production may impede an effective, extensive, and rapid implementation process.

The report on One Less Nuclear Power Plant Phase 2, also assessing the results of Phase 1, reveals that civic participation increased in various energy conservation efforts such as Eco-Mileage but was limited in the production of renewables or efficient use of energy, largely because focus was placed on relatively large-scale PV power plants and fuel cell plants.

In order to reduce energy consumption by the same amount of electricity generated by a nuclear power plant, civic engagement was crucial. SMG developed diverse programs to moti­vate citizens to take part actively in the initiative, such as Energy Clinic Service, Energy Guardian Angels Corps, Energy-Saving Model Shops, and Happy Turn-Off Hour.

The One Less Nuclear Power Plant initiative is an evolution of various traditional energy conservation campaigns, broadening its focus to the production of new and renewable energy, efficient use of energy like the Building Retrofit Programme (BRP), and energy saving in a wide range of energy sources like elec­tricity, gas, and petroleum.

Also noteworthy is the fact that despite a relatively short history of local autonomy in Korea, the Seoul local gov­ernment has presented a successful model of energy policies, including various institutional improvements and an innovative project implementation. As a result, other local governments in the country have emulated the city’s policies regarding the FIT program, preferential lease conditions for PV power plants, and implementation of small-scale solar power stations.

(source: One Less Nuclear Power Plant Phase 2, Environmental Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government)

- One Less Nuclear Power Plant, Phase 2. Seoul's energy policy for the future generation, Environmental Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government,

- 2013 Climate Action Leadership Award / World Green Building Council


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