S Korea may face nation-wide blackout over power use surge: official

16:37, January 12, 2010      

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South Koreans could potentially face a nation-wide blackout as the country's power reserves may drop below "alert" levels following the record amount of power use recently, a senior government official said Tuesday.

In a letter released by the Minister of Knowledge Economy Choi Kyung-hwan, the country was warned of its power use last week that reached record amount for four consecutive days, and was told emergency reserves have fallen to 4.41 million kilowatts, or 6.4 percent of total demand, well below the 6.00 million kilowatts recommended by power companies to have in storage to prevent potential blackouts.

As a result of record-breaking snow and cold weather in the country last week, South Korea saw for the first time in 16 years a phenomenon where the country's power usage in the winter months surpassed summer usage, when heavy demand for air conditioners usually cause an uptick in power demand, the letter added.

The country's power usage last week mostly came from heating at homes and offices, Choi said, as it peaked at 68.56 million kilowatts as of 11 a.m. on Friday, 5.35 million kilowatts more than the 63.21 million kilowatts used during the peak hours of last summer.

"That is almost equivalent to the output of the four nuclear reactors South Korea is scheduled to build for the United Arab Emirates," he added.

The minister, however, noted the positive implications of increased power use, partly attributing it to the increase in production by local factories caused by the country's rapid economic recovery amid a global recession.

In order to prevent any potential blackouts and further hazards, the minister urged South Koreans to reduce power consumption and to be more frugal in power use.

Source: Xinhua
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