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LEDs and smart grids: keys to Korea's green technology

Korea is strong in the smart grid and LED industries. As those industries are expected to lead the world, the Korean government has spared no effort or money on the R&D and the creation of a market for those industries. The government’s support for the smart grid and LED industries is only going to expand.

During the 15th meeting of the Presidential Committee on Green Growth, Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik assessed the progress of the LED industry and ordered developed supportive measures.

“The key to green growth is to foster and develop green technology, especially the smart grid and LED industries which can be led by Korea globally,” Prime Minister Kim said.

“In order to aim for the world’s market with reinforced technical capacity and activated market creation, the Korean government needs to foster those industries.”

Jeju Island has built the world's largest smart grid testbed and  industrialized related technologies

Jeju Island has built the world's largest smart grid testbed and  industrialized related technologies (Photo: Jeju Smart Grid Testbed).

Smart grids are the next generation of electricity grids, optimizing energy efficiency using digital technology. They enable the most efficient power consumption by allowing consumers and power suppliers to exchange information in real time using information technology. For example, consumers can charge their power supply when power rates are lower, to be used when the rates are higher.

In addition, they also allow consumers to monitor their power consumption so they can voluntarily participate in saving energy.

As smart grid innovations reduce energy consumption, they are considered as one of the representative green technologies. On top of that, Korea currently has the competitive edge in the smart grid industry worldwide; Korea was designated as a leading country in smart grids during the G7 Summit in 2009.

The Korean government has actively supported the smart grid industry, establishing a national roadmap in 2010 to foster the industry, and enacting a “Special Act on Smart Grid Establishment and Support” for the first time in the world. On Jeju Island, it has built the world’s largest smart grid testbed by developing a business model and evaluating the outcome of technological developments.

The government has also expanded support of the smart grid industry in order to foster the industry as a driving force of the nation and dominate the world’s market in advance. It is planning to create an initial market by expanding the supply of smart meters, electric vehicle charging stations, and energy storage systems. It is expected that the government won't stop there but will also cultivate other related industries.

The smart meter, essentially an advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), can be described as a digital fusebox. It connects consumers with a power supply company in real time so the consumers can monitor the amount of electricity they use and calculate estimated power rates. This allows them to control their power use especially when it is more expensive; it provides them with economic benefits and reduces the burden on the electrical grid to supply power during peak times. The government plans to expand the number of smart meters supplied from 720,000 in 2011 to 10 million.

The World Smart Grid Expo 2011 was held in Korea in November last year

The World Smart Grid Expo 2011 was held in Korea in November last year (Photo: Gonggam Korea).

As there are less than 500 charging stations for electric vehicles nationwide, the government is planning to increase the number of charging stations to 150,000 by 2016. Its plan is to foster the electric vehicle market by expanding the number of charging stations. A plan for establishing a charging station infrastructure at the national level is expected to be made within this year.

The government has also conducted a project to foster the LED industry since 2008. Thanks to its endeavors, the technical capacity of the industry has been reinforced. Korea has succeeded in the localization of some key parts of LED lighting and LED chips such as MOCVD. It has also improved the accreditation system for LED products, establishing an accreditation standard for high efficiency for 17 types of LED products.

The trade balance of the LED industry has continuously improved. In 2010, Korea posted a trade surplus of USD 420 million and recorded a trade surplus of USD 1.114 billion in 2011. Its export of LED products has increased from USD 960 million in 2008 to USD 3.5 billion in 2011.

Photovoltaic energy facilities were built in 2009 in LED Valley, a high-tech industrial complex in Gwangju

Photovoltaic energy facilities were built in 2009 in LED Valley, a high-tech industrial complex in Gwangju (Photo: Gonggam Korea).

The government is reinforcing constitutional support for the LED industry. First, it will expand the market. Within this year, it will appoint two to three cities as model cities for using LED products.

The use of LED products in apartment buildings will also be expanded. For example, the government is reviewing some plans to make installation of LED products mandatory in common places like underground parking lots in apartment buildings. This is also expected to apply to other buildings like hospitals and large grocery stores.

The government is expanding R&D for the LED industry to secure its dominance in the global market in advance by improving the technology and techniques of Korean companies. It is especially focusing its support on ”LED lighting system technology.” This technology builds a human-friendly lighting environment by being equipped with intelligent sensors and smart drivers. In addition, the government will also expand the participation rate of small- and medium-sized enterprises up to 40% in R&D projects in the eight key parts of LED lighting such as sensor modules and drivers.

* Adapted from Gonggam Korea
Translated by Jessica Seoyoung Choi Staff Writer

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