Korea’s renewable energy sector has seen growth in recent years in terms of sales, exports and private investment, although its technology is still lagging behind other advanced nations.
According to the Knowledge Economy Ministry and Solar & Energy, a leading market search firm, yesterday, total sales in the local renewable sector reached 8.1 trillion won ($7.2 billion) last year, a 58 percent surge from the previous year. Exports also jumped 77 percent to $4.5 billion, mainly boosted by demand for locally made solar power generations and related equipment. Private firms also increased investment last year especially in enhancing research and development and building more renewable energy-related factories. Private investments increased 22 percent to 3.5 trillion won in 2010.
“The country has been focusing on boosting the renewable energy sector as part of its paradigm shift towards more eco-friendly sustainable growth, and it is gradually bearing fruit,” the ministry said in a statement. “We [the government] expect the renewable energy sector to become the country’s future growth engine like the semiconductor and shipbuilding industries.”
In response to the growth of the business, the number of local firms dedicated to renewable energy products increased 12 percent from 192 in 2009 to 215 in 2010, and the number of employees jumped 29 percent from 10,407 to 13,380 over the same period.
The ministry expects the momentum to continue this year, and it forecasts sales to increase 78 percent to 14.5 trillion won and exports to rise 84 percent to $8.4 billion.
Private investment is also expected to increase 16 percent to 4.14 trillion won this year while the size of the workforce is predicted to jump 28 percent to reach 17,161.
Despite solid growth, however, Korea, which is a relative newcomer to the industry, is far behind countries like China, Japan, the United States and the European Union nations. According to the ministry, the world’s renewable energy industry reached $162 billion in revenues and Korea’s share was only $5.1 billion.
“The renewable energy industry could be divided mainly into three parts: solar, wind and bio fuel,” said Hwang Soo-sung, director at the ministry’s renewable energy department. He noted that China is aggressively promoting investments in the first two areas and it is difficult for Korea to catch up in terms of investment and technology. In case of the bio fuel sector, resource-rich countries like Brazil are front-runners because securing raw materials is the most important factor.
“What Korea should focus on is to integrate existing technology from sectors such as semiconductors and liquid-crystal displays with solar power energy, and also shipbuilding with wind power,” Hwang said.
source: Korea JoongAng Daily