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North Korea: A Cutting-Edge, Renewable Energy Nation?

President Donald J. Trump and Republic of South Korea President Moon Jae-in bid farewell to Chairman of the Workers’ Party Kim Jong Un Korea Sunday, June 30, 2019, at the demarcation line separating North and South Korea at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Photo: Shealah Craighead)
President Donald J. Trump and Republic of South Korea President Moon Jae-in bid farewell to Chairman of the Workers’ Party Kim Jong Un Korea Sunday, June 30, 2019, at the demarcation line separating North and South Korea at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Photo: Shealah Craighead)

North Korea has turned to renewal energy workarounds to offset international sanctions on fossil fuels and faulty hydroelectric power.

While the international community has condemned North Korea as a backward and isolated state, it turns out international sanctions on the country have, in fact, spurred innovation and environmental responsibility in the secluded nation.

North Korean government sources last week told South Korean news service NK Economy that North Korea has started to rely on alternative energy to generate electricity and power government facilities.

The country’s flood and stormwater management agency on the western coast has installed wind power generators and solar panels, Arirang Meari, the North Korean government’s official news outlet, reported. In the past, the government agency used three power generators before replacing them with the new alternative energy sources, the news service added.

U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions have forced North Korea to develop renewable energy sources, from wind to solar to keep its economy alive. The world’s body imposed an embargo on Pyongyang in 2003 after it left the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

The UNSC bars North Korean coal and ore exports, leading to the scarcity of electricity. However, a U.N. report shows the hermit state is still exporting coal and importing oil illegally.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is trying to focus on hydroelectric power to solve the electricity problem as he stressed in the 2019 New Year’s address. However, some parts of North Korea’s hydroelectric infrastructure are not working properly and leading to a failure to meet the country’s electricity demand.

“The Samsu power plant has cracks where water is flowing out, and the plant cannot produce enough electricity. The construction of the power plant left almost the entire farming area in Samsu County submerged in water, and locals were forcibly relocated to other areas. Residents are unhappy because the power plant isn’t producing much electricity,” said a Ryanggang Province-based source, as Daily NK reported.

The power plant’s operation was disrupted by a dam leakage in 2014, seven years after its initial development. Despite the repairs, the leaks are still a problem five years later, leading to the plant’s failure to produce as much electricity as needed.

The announcement of North Korea’s use of wind and solar power is not the country’s first foray into renewable energy sources. North Korea set up its first renewable energy-powered greenhouse in 2014, with the assistance of Switzerland-based humanitarian agency, Agape International. The building is run on manure-based gas to warm the greenhouse, which also can be used in farming in winter.

How Is Renewable Energy Used in Other Countries?

Renewable energy refers to energy sources which are not depleted when used such as solar, wind, waves, tides, and geothermal heat. The use of renewable energy is one of the world’s commitments to cutting carbon emissions, as stated in the Paris climate accord in 2015.

The climate conference in Katowice, Poland, at the end of 2018 called for the end of coal’s use as an energy source. However, not all countries were ready to adopt a drastic change in energy production. Poland, the event’s host country, pushed for more protection for its coal industry, meaning the use of coal would continue.

Fiji has urged Australia to stop using coal and turn to alternative energy ahead of the Pacific Islands Forum held in the remote island of Tuvalu, from Tuesday (August 13) to Thursday (August,15), as Deutsche Welle reported.

Australia is also now allegedly more focused on countering China growing influence in the Asia Pacific region than on tackling carbon emissions. The Berlin-based climate watchdog group, Climate Analytics, stated that Australia is still one of the world’s top emitters due to fossil-fuel combustion and farming. Climate Analytics predicted that Australian greenhouse gases would be 8.6% higher than the limit stated in the 2015 climate accord.

Scandinavian nations such as Sweden and Denmark are among the countries leading the charge on alternative energy, according to a report by the Australian-based Climate Council.

However, other developing countries are taking the lead too. Costa Rica, for example, has generated 95% of its electricity from alternative energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power over the past four years. Uruguay is almost 100 percent run on renewable energy after an endless effort for a decade.

The United States was included in The Climate Council’s report, “11 Countries Leading the Charge On Renewable Energy.” According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), renewable energy could generate 80% of electricity in the U.S. by 2050. The U.S. solar energy sector also creates more jobs than coal and nuclear combined, the Climate Council said.

Perhaps most significantly, this April the United States generated more power from renewable resources than coal for the first time in U.S. history. As Citizen Truth’s Peter Castagno previously reported, renewables produced 23% of total U.S. power while coal only produced 20%, in a shift that energy experts say reflects both temporary seasonal fluctuations and long-term improvements in renewable technology.

Additionally, during the 2015-2016 period, the solar industry in the U.S. employed 374,000 people while the fossil fuel sector only 187,117.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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1 Comment

  1. Dcwilson August 15, 2019

    Yes, slaves ARE a renewable resource! Where are NK’s Labor Unions again? If they like the downtrodden workers so much, then why are they keeping theme them so downtodden?


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