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President Park calls for broader Asian energy cooperation

South Korea’s president voices support for proposed gas trunkline from Russia

Governments around the world, and especially Asia, need more international cooperation to address the problems of energy security, providing access to energy for all and mitigating climate change, South Korea president Park Geun-hye told delegates at WEC 2013

“To overcome the energy trilemma the world faces right now, we need a transition in global energy cooperation to bring down the walls between energy producing and consuming countries,” said Park. “Especially in Asia, which has a mix of countries with strong energy demands and countries with huge energy supply potentials.”

To that end, Park backed long-discussed proposals that would see Russia develop its vast East Siberian gas reserves and build export capacity to the Chinese, Japanese and the South Korean markets.

“In the 1980s, Russian gas was developed and introduced to Europe. We need to have new initiatives for energy cooperation like this,” Park said. “We need to create the conditions where the joint cooperation could be made for oil and gas development in East Siberia and also shale gas development in China and North America.”

Russia has been discussing the development of East Siberian gas for export with China for nearly a decade, though disagreements over price have been the main sticking point in those discussions.

In addition to sending gas to China, Russian gas export monopoly Gazprom has proposed either building a pipeline through North Korea or a subsea gas pipeline from China’s northeast coast into South Korea if a deal cannot be reached with Pyongyang.

Park also urged the region’s governments to work towards better integrating their energy infrastructure. “We have to create the environment that makes energy infrastructure connected with each other, including regional power grid, gas pipe network, and oil pipelines,” she said.

The region’s governments should work on a new cross-border energy agreement that would establish the legal and political framework needed to attract private investment for the projects, said Park.

Park also called on governments and international institutions to shift their focus from fossil fuels to clean energy. “Currently, energy policies and institutions in most countries have focused on stable supply of fossil fuels. We have to review from scratch whether the existing energy policies and institutions are appropriate to achieve our new goals of securing clean, safe and available energy for all,” she said.

Park pledged that South Korea would use its experience of rapid economic and energy development over the past 50 years to help lead the way on addressing the world’s pressing energy problems.

Park pointed to the use of advanced technologies in the power distribution network as a way Korea plans to improve its energy efficiency, create new jobs and build new markets.“We will reduce the electricity consumption by using ICT, including Energy Storage Systems and Energy Management System and build a system where the saved electricity can be traded on the power exchange,” Park said. “We expect that we can reduce up to 1 million kilowatts of peak electricity and create a 3.5 trillion won ($3.27 billion) market and 15,000 jobs through this system.”

Although South Korea is one of the world’s largest energy importers, Park said that the country still has much to contribute to the global energy market. Although the country is scaling back its nuclear ambitions at home after post-Fukushima safety concerns, South Korea is keen to export its knowhow abroad. The country won a $20bn deal to build a reactor in the United Arab Emirates in 2009 and is keen to secure more such deals.

South Korea will also use its status as both major oil importer and oil products exporter to build cooperation in the international energy community, Park said. “We are now faced with the biggest challenge ever in relation to energy on a global scale,” Park said. “Where there is a will there is a way. We are faced with challenges in the global energy sector but if we gather our wills together there must be a way and a solution.”

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