| A man was surprised when he entered a ward office in Seoul around 2 p.m. Monday to get a certified copy of residence register. The air conditioner and lights were all off. The thermometer in the office read 34 degrees Celsius. Unable to tolerate the sweltering heat, he gave up asking for the documents, and got out of the office in just five minutes.
Issuing warning over a possible power shortage Monday, the government promoted unprecedented measures including the order to turn off air conditioners at public institutions. As a result, the crisis was dealt with smoother than expected. Due to a series of breakdown of thermal power plants, the sense of crisis heightened in the morning over a possible recurrence of a blackout as seen on September 15, 2011. However, thanks to various power saving measures, power supply concerns somewhat subdued. Yet tension is still high as power shortage will continue until Wednesday.
According to Korea Power Exchange, reserve power maintained 3.9-4.8 million kilowatts. It was initially expected that reserve power should decline to 1.6 million kilowatts that the cautionary alert was expected to be issued. The better-than-expected situation came as the government issued various emergency measures to secure massive reserve power. The state-run energy agency said it secured 7.06 million kilowatts Monday through compulsory power saving at large department stores, work hour adjustments at companies and operation of independent electric power plants in the private sector. Compulsory power saving helped power demand cuts to 4.46 million kilowatts, up 1 million kilowatts from targeted 3.65 million kilowatts.
The so-called "Monday effect" also helped power demand at lower-than-expected levels, analysts say. After going out to air-conditioned shopping malls over the weekend, people tend to reduce using air-conditioners at work on Mondays. An examination of summer power peak days since 2000 shows four and three peaks in Wednesdays and Thursdays, and one on Mondays.
The problem is the unexpected adverse situations including stop of thermal power plant operation, amid continuous power shortage expected on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. The nuclear power plant corruption has suspended operation of six out of 23 nuclear power plants nationwide, and thermal power plants have been in full operation for the past several months. Thermal power plants, which failed to go through tuning due to continuous power shortage from early summer, have continuously broken down since May, repeating suspension and operation.
"Some 60 thermal power plants typically go through tuning in April and May when power demand is the lowest, but a considerable number couldn`t be examined this year due to power shortage," said a Trade, Industry and Energy Ministry official. "An additional breakdown of a large thermal power plant will severely hamper power supply."