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Seoul Green Energy Field Trip | 3-7 Jan 2023

Three geography students, led by Kiki, a PhD student of the Asian Energy Studies Centre, visited Seoul on January 3-7, 2023. Below are their sharing and photo highlights:

By Yeung Cheuk Lam

Nowon District (Nowon-gu) EZ House

We visited the Nowon Energy Zero (EZ) House which is the first zero-energy multi-unit housing complex. It aims to maintain the indoor temperature to provide a comfortable environment for residents in summer and winter while also promoting the usage of solar energy and ge

othermal heat pump to achieve environmental sustainability.

We first explored the EZ center where the guide explained how the construction materials or methods reduce energy usage in detail. For example, they have applied external insulation and high-performance windows in the house. They can minimize heat loss in winter through the concrete structure of the wall, roof, and floor facing outside. To prevent heat loss in windows and the front door, high airtight productions were also installed. Another example is the thermal break structure built on the balcony. Because of the openness to the environment of its design, balconies may create loopholes in the external wall insulation system which causes thermal bridges. Therefore, the balconies in the EZ house are separate from the external wall and stabilize the structure by using a thermal break structure. One of the most impressive methods of connecting the construction is that the door that connects the balcony and living room can be opened in two ways rather than a single way. Instead of the typical opening way, the door may also be opened from the top to ensure safety. Therefore, EZ house not only promotes energy efficiency, but also promotes residential safety.

Apart from the construction method, electric appliances are supplied by renewable energy. For example, they use the central heat recovery ventilator instead of an individual heat recovery ventilator, use the geothermal heat pump to support air-conditioning, etc. This helps to sustain the energy and should be appreciated.

Interview with Ms. Kim Soyoung

During the trip, we interviewed Kim Soyoung who is the community leader in Sungdaegol. She turned Sungdaegol into a self-reliant village by promoting solar energy and this helped to run the green energy market. Although solar energy is highly promoted among households in Sungdaegol, Kim suggested that not only them, but also other communities are facing more difficulties now under the government and policy hindrances.

Policy influent the promotion of community activities. Kim shared a lot about the differentiation between the past and the current government and some background information on parties in Korea in facilitating policy implementation. During the Moon Jae-In government, renewable energy and carbon neutrality are highly promoted. They advocated citizens applying environmental concepts by themselves and promoting self-sufficiency for example, asking citizens to sell solar energy to neighbors.

However, these concepts are not highly promoted under insufficient capital support when Yoon Suk Yeol become the current president. The government is not willing to provide support which makes environmental-related activities cannot be held. For example, there are fewer people who use solar energy because the government will no longer give the 70% subsidy for those who install solar panels, and the cheap electricity fee offered by non-renewable energy suppliers in Korea lower residents’ desire for changing their energy usage. The change of government policy was because they want to promote nuclear energy instead of renewable energy. Therefore, the current capital resources in Sungdaegol are only supported by 4 small shops selling coffee and books, and local shops in selling energy. Even though local communities keep on against the policy and raise citizens' awareness through demonstrations, petitions, or internet promotions, Kim suggested that it is not that efficient because there is less communication or public involvement compared to the Moon Jae-In government.

Government support and policy play an important role in promoting energy usage. However, government policies are mainly based on parties’ desires and interests. so the direction for local communities sometimes remains uncertain when there is a change of presidents every 5 years.


By Kitty

More information on the interview with Ms. Kim Suyoung

In the interview with Ms. Kim, we learned that Sungdaegol has operated as an energy self-reliant community for 15 years. But in the past two years, this community is facing some obstacles due to political factors in South Korea. In the past, Seoul has always partnered with the government to promote the spontaneous activities of its citizens, allowing civil society to participate in the campaign and addressing its shortcomings. Currently, South Korea's political parties have changed, and they have a different direction of policies, resulting in a lack of government support for renewable energy development. Despite the pessimistic situation of renewable energy development in South Korea, Ms. Kim is working hard to develop Sungdaegol, however, the development pace is comparatively slowing down. It can be observed from Sungdaegol's situation that the government plays a very important role in promoting green energy development.

Ms. Kim pointed out that many other energy-self-sufficient communities have stopped developing due to a lack of government support, while Sungdaegol is trying to maintain income by running cafes and selling solar electricity under this predicament. Ms. Kim is also fighting for another environmental movements, telling the government that ignoring climate issues is irresponsible to the next generation. She also believes that some anti-climate change movements will become more radical after people's voices are suppressed, and citizens' environmental awareness will also increase in this sense.

Visiting the Seoul Energy Dream Centre

On the second day of the trip, we visited the first energy-independent building in Korea - the Seoul Energy Dream Centre. The tour begins with an interactive geothermal installation demonstrating the center's commitment to using renewable energy to achieve zero emissions. Aside from geothermal energy, the centre also has several solar power generation facilities, ensuring it can produce as much energy as it consumes. And the surplus power will send to the city's power grid. Subsequent exhibitions also introduce the development history of energy utilization, such as flint, hydropower, wind energy, solar energy, etc.

It is worth noting that the design of this building incorporated many energy-saving measures. For example, the architectural features of the centre included all windows composed of three layers of glass with automatic exterior shutters, designed to regulate the amount of light entering the building and keep it warm.

What impresses me most about this place is that the centre not only uses exhibits and texts to guide our understanding of renewable energy but also sets up many interactive facilities and living exhibition areas

. The life exhibition area brings energy saving and emission reduction closer to our lives by displaying the power consumption of various household appliances at home and the interactive game, such as riding a bicycle to generate power. Visitors are able to learn more about renewable energy principles through these interactive facilities.

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