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South Korean companies join global race for clean energy

4 December 2020, 0:01 GMT 5 min read

  • SK Group companies are the first from South Korea to become members of the global RE100 initiative, committing to transition to 100% renewable power.
  • Leading companies eagerly await the introduction of new policies enabling corporate sourcing of renewable energy in the market.

South Korea has made a new place for itself on the world stage today as six major businesses from SK Group become the first in the country to join RE100 and pledge to use 100% renewable electricity.

RE100 is the global initiative led by international non-profit the Climate Group in partnership with CDP to accelerate the transition to zero carbon electricity grids. Its 270+ members are committed to powering their global operations with 100% renewable electricity in the shortest possible timeline. They include some of the biggest brands in the world (e.g. Chanel, Apple, Starbucks).

The six new joiners are part of SK Group, South Korea’s third largest conglomerate, and include SK Holdings, SK Telecom (including SK Broadband), SK Hynix, SKC, SK Materials, and SK Siltron. They cover a range of industries including chip manufacturing, chemicals and bio-pharmacy, and telecommunications. Together they have an enormous electricity demand of over 31 terawatts per year – equivalent to over 5% of South Korea’s electricity use. 

SK Holdings is aiming to power its operations with 100% renewable electricity by 2030, while SK Hynix and the other companies are targeting 2050. Selecting a 2050 target reflects the challenges faced by an industrial scale energy user in South Korea; without a certificates system in place in the market, it is currently impossible to make the switch to renewable electricity. But by joining RE100, these companies are sending a strong signal to the market that renewables are the future for the country.

We’re proud to be one of the first South Korean companies to join RE100. Rapid climate change is becoming an issue that affects human survival beyond corporate sustainability, and SK Hynix will actively contribute to the solutions.

Seok-Hee LEE, CEO of SK Hynix, a leading sensor supplier and one of Apple’s manufacturing partners

In order to meet its recent commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, South Korea, the world’s seventh largest CO2 emitter, must completely overhaul its energy policy. As an export-driven economy, the country must respond to the growing trend of global RE100 members asking their suppliers to switch to renewables to remain competitive.

In its Green New Deal, the Government has promised to provide sourcing options for companies looking to buy renewables and join RE100. International RE100 members and leading Korean businesses are eagerly awaiting market changes, including the launch of Korea Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (K-REGOs) in January 2021.

The six SK Group companies plan to progress towards their goals in stages, through a mix of green contracts through the Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), self-generation projects, and third-party power purchase agreements (PPAs).

Sam Kimmins, Head of RE100, the Climate Group, said, “We’re delighted that six of SK Group’s businesses have been able to make the RE100 commitment, and we’re excited about the Korean market being unlocked to provide businesses – and supply chains – with affordable access to renewables. We hope that many other companies will follow.” 

Ousam JIN, President of the Korean Society for New and Renewable Energy (KSNRE), the RE100 Regional Delivery Partner in South Korea, said, “It is true that it has been difficult for companies to procure renewable power in Korea so far. However, the Korean government’s announcement of carbon neutrality – net zero – and introduction of a REGO system will greatly improve procurement options for companies. Furthermore, SK's joining of RE100 will be a big signal for the Korean renewable energy market and the government’s policies.”

Mukund Santhanam, RE100 Strategic Advisor – Republic of Korea, added, “SK Group's announcement builds on groundwork establishing RE100 in Korea, and we look forward to speaking with other Korean companies who are inspired by the leadership they have seen today.”

Notes to editor

  1. To advocate for change at the global level, the RE100 initiative has six global policy asks, backed by RE100 companies, to governments in every market:
  • Create a level playing field on which renewable electricity competes fairly with fossil-fuel electricity and reflects the cost-competitiveness of renewable electricity.  
  • Remove regulatory barriers and implement stable frameworks to facilitate the uptake of corporate renewable electricity sourcing.  
  • Create an electricity market structure that allows for direct trade between corporate buyers of all sizes and renewable electricity suppliers.  
  • Work with utilities or electricity suppliers to provide options for corporate renewable electricity sourcing.  
  • Promote direct investments in on-site and off-site renewable electricity projects  
  • Support a credible and transparent system for issuing, tracking, and certifying competitively priced Environmental Attribute Certificates (EACs). 

About RE100 

RE100 is a global initiative bringing together the world’s most influential businesses committed to 100% renewable power. Led by international non-profit the Climate Group in partnership with CDP, the group have a total revenue of over US$6.6 trillion and operate in a diverse range of sectors. Together, they send a powerful signal to policymakers and investors to accelerate the transition to a clean economy. #RE100 

About the Climate Group    

The Climate Group drives climate action. Fast. Our goal is a world of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, with greater prosperity for all. We focus on systems with the highest emissions and where our networks have the greatest opportunity to drive change. We do this by building large and influential networks and holding organisations accountable, turning their commitments into action. We share what we achieve together to show more organisations what they could do. We are an international non-profit organisation, founded in 2004, with offices in London, New Delhi and New York. We are proud to be part of the We Mean Business coalition. Follow us on Twitter @ClimateGroup.     About CDP  

CDP is a global non-profit that drives companies and governments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, safeguard water resources and protect forests. Voted number one climate research provider by investors and working with institutional investors with assets of over US$106 trillion, we leverage investor and buyer power to motivate companies to disclose and manage their environmental impacts. Over 9,600 companies with over 50% of global market capitalization disclosed environmental data through CDP in 2020. This is in addition to the hundreds of cities, states and regions who disclosed, making CDP’s platform one of the richest sources of information globally on how companies and governments are driving environmental change. CDP is a founding member of the We Mean Business Coalition. Visit https://cdp.net/en or follow us @CDP to find out more.     About KSNRE 

KSNRE is a non-profit corporation (registered by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy), whose purpose is to expand the understanding of renewable energy through industry-academia research collaborations such as academic and technical research and development, information exchange, events and business support. KSNRE is the campaign partner for RE100 in the Republic of Korea, providing information to companies on the aims and benefits of RE100 and supporting the interests of Korean and international RE100 members locally.