Uptick in North Korea’s Renewable Energy Production

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

In North Korea, there are now three solar-powered ferries that sail the Taedong River: the Okryu 1, the Okryu 2, and the Okryu 3.

The North Korean government’s wire service, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), reported on November 4, 2016: “The ferries sail between Kim Il Sung Square and the Tower of the Juche Idea, guaranteeing that citizens can travel during the rush hour. . . . These solar powered-ferries provide ferry services both to workers and for guests from home and abroad in the form of tourist and chartered services.”

According to KCNA, the three ferries were built at Ryongnam Shipyard, each weigh 45 tons, have a maximum speed of 6 knots, and can take up to 50–60 passengers.

According to Yun Hyok, the captain of Okryu 1, “the ferry is powered by the energy of sun light . . . the driving system was created with the energy and skill of our engineers. The ship can run for around 8 hours when fully charged.”

Since the 1990s, North Korea has expressed determination to achieve energy independence, with Kim Jong Un pointing to resolving electricity difficulties as being a priority back in 2011. Subsequently, in 2013, a law was introduced to encourage research and the production of renewable energy, and at this year’s Seventh Party Congress it was announced that two hydropower stations had been opened. The importance of energy independence was also emphasized at the congress. It has also been confirmed that North Korea has been pursuing a long-term plan to raise the amount of energy produced from renewable sources to 5 million kW. In order to achieve this target, the plan envisages by 2044 that wind power will provide 15 percent of total energy demand.

This plan was discovered through internal materials on display at the Natural Energy Research Centre, formed in November 2014 as a result of an order issued by Kim Jong Un to develop energy resources that do not pollute the environment.

An overseas visitor to the Natural Energy Research Centre said that “the Centre in Pyongyang has a diagram of the 30-year plan to develop renewable energy with the title ‘The dream and ideal of Natural Energy Science development’. . . . The materials there also indicate plans to train specialists in the science of ‘natural energy’ development, and plans related to the development and trial sites for wind power, geothermal energy, and solar thermal energy.”

Such plans mean that North Korea plans to develop renewable energy, in addition to building hydroelectric power plants and/or using Chinese/Russian power to deal with energy shortages. In other words, they intend to attempt to reduce their consumption of fossil fuels and develop renewable energy. Since Kim Jong Un’s rise to power, a variety of measures have been put in place and investments made to broaden the use of renewable energy.

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