“One Less Nuclear Power Plant”: Seoul’s Commitment to a Low-carbon and Non-nuclear City

By Joohee Lee

OLNPP Initiative is designed to reduce the current level of energy consumption in Seoul by as much as a typical nuclear unit can produce annually.

The recent nuclear accident in Fukushima alarmed many throughout the world. South Korea as one of Japan’s neighbors was immediately shaken by this historical nuclear disaster. However, Korea’s national energy plan to maintain and possibly increase dependence on nuclear energy has not changed much despite worrisome voices from civil society and local communities located near nuclear power plants.

Against this background, Mayor Won-Soon Park of the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced in 2012 an innovative and experimental initiative on energy sustainability for the City, titled “One Less Nuclear Power Plant (OLNPP).” Although there are no nuclear power plants in Seoul, the name of the Initiative implies the City’s responsibility to understand and reduce the risks of overreliance on nuclear power disproportionately placed on local residents living near power plants. In this regard, the OLNPP Initiative is designed to reduce the current level of energy consumption in Seoul by as much as a typical nuclear unit can produce annually (approximately 2 million TOE) by 2014. To achieve this goal, the SMG provided a variety of policy measures and channels to enable a broad participation from the citizens. Before the end of the target year, the SMG already surpassed its reduction goal through energy saving (0.91 million TOE), efficiency improvement (0.87 million TOE), and the diversification of energy sources including renewables, fuel cell, and waste heat (0.26 million TOE) [1].

In June 2014, the SMG announced the beginning of the second phase of the OLNPP after its early achievements in the Phase 1 target. In Phase 2, the SMG sets up a more ambitious goal to reach 20% of self-sufficiency in electricity by 2020 (4.2% as of 2013). At the same time, the SMG aims to reduce 4 million TOE of energy consumption and 10 million tons of GHG through additional renewable generation and energy efficiency improvement.

In a paper published in Energy Policy in November 2014, Dr. Taehwa Lee, a CEEP alumni, evaluated the OLNPP policy as a meaningful experiment and effort for energy autonomy and sustainability at a local level. The study analyzed the OLNPP from an analytic framework for urban energy experiments consisting of three dimensions – policy background, governance, and policy content [2]. Among the three dimensions of the proposed framework, the paper highlights the leadership and governance behind the OLNPP able to recognize “burden-shifting” issues existing in the present energy system in Korea as well as incorporate social and moral dimensions into urban energy policies.

Dr. John Byrne, Chairman of the Foundation for Renewable Energy and Environment (FREE), Director of CEEP, and Distinguished Professor of Energy and Climate Policy, serves on the Seoul International Energy Advisory Council which advises the SMG on energy policies and plans including the ONLPP Initiative. Dr. Byrne points out that SMG’s rapid reduction in energy use is a remarkable outcome and that OLNPP Phase 2’s value-centered approach could be an important policy driver for enhancing sustainability and equity in Seoul’s energy system. Recent findings by the FREE Research Group include an estimate of Seoul’s “solar city” potential, noting that about 65.7% of the annual daylight-hours electricity needs of the city can be served by distributed solar power systems on a typical day [3]. Two Korean CEEP alumni, Dr. Sun-Jin Yun and Dr. Jungmin Yu, are also serving on the Policy Implementation Committee of the OLNPP.


[1] One Less Nuclear Power Plant, Seoul Metropolitan Government, http://english.seoul.go.kr/policy-information/environment-energy/climate-environment/5-one-less-nuclear-power-plant-2/
[2] Lee, T., Lee, T., & Lee, Y. (2014). An Experiment for Urban Energy Autonomy in Seoul: The One ‘Less’ Nuclear Power Plant Policy. Energy Policy, 74, 311-318. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2014.08.023
[3] Byrne, J., Taminiau, J., Kurdgelashvili, L., & Kim, K. N. (2015). A Review of the Solar City Concept and Methods to Assess Rooftop Solar Electric Potential, with an Illustrative Application to the City of Seoul. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 41, 830-844. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2014.08.023

Photo credit: Seoul Metropolitan Government

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