Solar energy power system Sam Yeh/Getty Images

A Greener Grid for East Asia

After decades of overreliance on nuclear energy and fossil fuels, South Korea and Taiwan have announced plans to phase out or reduce their use in the coming decades. But while that is good news for the environment, the shift to renewable energy sources could actually be faster.

SYDNEY – Not long ago, the future of nuclear power was in Asia. In 2015, nine of the ten reactors that opened globally were on the continent. But recent declarations by South Korea and Taiwan that they will “go green” have called into question nuclear power’s long-term viability, at least in East Asia. Indeed, 2017 may mark the end of the region’s nuclear love affair – and the start of a new one with renewables.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen have both set ambitious national agendas to boost renewable energy generation while calling for a phase-out of nuclear. For years, overreliance on traditional fuels discouraged investment in clean technologies for power generation, despite the fact that both countries are innovators in green industries, like energy storage and smart grids. Whereas 22% of South Korea’s energy needs, and 14% of Taiwan’s, are met by nuclear, those ratios are now set to drop dramatically.

Blueprints are still being formulated, but taken together the two countries’ commitments mark a major shift in regional energy planning toward greener, cleaner technologies. Moreover, they will pave the way for increased investment in renewable-power installations, placing their countries on a new competitive footing in the regional market.

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