The key to transitioning towards a carbon-neutral society in the face of the pressing climate crisis is the decarbonization of the energy sector. This process must begin with the phase-out of coal-based power generation, which remains the world's largest energy source and the primary contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The international community has acknowledged the urgency of this issue through the COP26 summit held in 2021, where agreements were made to phase out unabated coal power plants and to gradually eliminate subsidies for fossil fuels.
In order to align with the global movement towards carbon neutrality, the Republic of Korea has pledged to the international community to fully phase out coal-fired power plants by 2050 through participation in COP26. It is imperative that we now take concrete steps to implement a comprehensive plan for coal phase-out and devise practical policy measures to meet the commitments made to the international community.
The utilization of coal-fired power plants has been a seminal driving force behind the modernization and industrialization of nations globally, dating back to the Industrial Revolution. However, as the world progresses towards phasing out coal as a primary energy source, a number of challenges and costs are anticipated to arise, including a decline in related industries, job losses, and the potential impact on local economies. Despite this, the transition away from coal also presents a host of benefits, such as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, an improvement in air quality and the overall environment, as well as the emergence of new job opportunities within the energy new industries. Thus, in order to effectively realize a carbon-neutral trajectory within the power industry, it is imperative to take into account both the potential socio-economic burdens and benefits.
In this perspective, the National Assembly Futures Institute(NAFI) tried to analyze the paths to net zero in the power sector and the paths to exiting coal power plants prior to establishing a full-fledged coal phase-out implementation plan. From a methodological standpoint, power system model was employed in order to analyze the paths and assess the feasibility of the net zero scenarios within the power sector. The primary objectives of this study were to evaluate the various costs and benefits associated with the domestic decarbonization of the power sector, as well as the potential impact on the economy and society as a whole.