Archive for the ‘Dams/hydro’ Category

Why is the DPRK pursuing CDM carbon credits?

Saturday, November 9th, 2013

Benjamin Habib writes in the East Asia Forum:

North Korea is a curious case among Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It is not an active member of any specific negotiating bloc and has been a sporadic attendee at UNFCCC Conference of Parties gatherings, where its delegates are generally silent participants. Why then does North Korea engage with the international climate change regime?

We do see a rhetorical commitment in reporting documentation, along with various capacity-building programs, which do have greenhouse gas mitigation as a spin-off effect. However, it is the capacity-building dimension that appears to be the primary motivation for North Korea’s UNFCCC engagement. We know that the DPRK has agricultural productivity problems independent of climate vulnerability in terms of soil infertility, land degradation and labour-intensive production in addition to its small arable land base.

North Korea’s reporting documents to the Rio Conventions (a regime made up of the UNFCCC, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification) strongly emphasise capacity-building to address these weaknesses. The documents refer to hillside land reclamation, seed propagation and selective breeding programs to produce crops with greater climate tolerance, as well as programs to improve the efficiency of pre- and post-harvest cultivation practices and soil fertility-building projects.

It is also evident that North Korea is using the UNFCCC as a vehicle to upgrade its energy sector. North Korea’s energy sector problems are well known, plagued by problems like liquid fuel shortages, bottlenecks in coal supply chains for electricity generation, and poor electricity generation and transmission infrastructure, all of which is a significant drag on the national economy.

The UNFCCC offers capacity-building opportunities for North Korea’s energy sector through the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which is one of the key mechanisms for cooperative greenhouse gas abatement embedded within the Kyoto Protocol. The CDM was designed with the dual purpose of assisting developed states to comply with their emission reduction commitments, and assisting developing countries with sustainable development.

North Korea has six verified CDM projects which consist of developing hydropower installations in partnership with Topič Energo, a Czech company. There are further projects under consideration in the CDM verification process. Indeed, the CDM contains a number of compelling possibilities for North Korea, including opportunities for foreign direct investment and technology transfer to upgrade the North Korean energy sector.

Some suggest that North Korea is milking the CDM as a source of foreign currency revenue through the sale of carbon credits. CDM projects create certified emission reduction credits that developing country parties can sell in international carbon markets. Yet a quick appraisal of the numbers indicates why revenue potential is unlikely to be North Korea’s primary motive for CDM participation: North Korea’s CDM projects have generated just under 200,000 carbon credits, which are worth just over US$1 million at the July 2013 EU carbon market spot price of between US$5–6 per ton. This is clearly not a large revenue source, though there is potential for revenues to increase as North Korea’s CDM portfolio expands.

Previous posts on the DPRK’s foray into the UN carbon market can be found here.

Read the full article here:
North Korea’s surprising status in the international climate change regime
East Asia Forum
Benjamin Habib


Foundations of Energy Security for the DPRK: 1990-2009

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The Nautilus Institute has put together an amazing research paper on the DPRK’s energy sector. I cannot understate the value of the quality/quantity of facts/figures/tables in this research.

You can download the PDF here.

I have also added it to my DPRK Economic statistics Page.

Here is the introduction:

Energy demand and supply in general—and, arguably, demand for and supply of electricity in particular—have played a key role in many high-profile issues involving North Korea, and have played and will play a central role in the resolution of the ongoing confrontation between North Korea and much of the international community over the North’s nuclear weapons program. Energy sector issues will continue to be a key to the resolution of the crisis, as underscored by the formation of a Working Group under the Six-Party Talks that was (and nominally, still is) devoted to the issue of energy and economic assistance to the DPRK.

The purpose of this report is to provide policy-makers and other interested parties with an overview of the demand for and supply of the various forms of energy used in the DPRK in six years during the last two decades:

  • 1990, the year before much of the DPRK’s economic and technical support from the Soviet Union was withdrawn;
  • 1996, thought by some to be one of the most meager years of the difficult economic 1990s in the DPRK; and 2000, a year that has been perceived by some observers as a period of modest economic “recovery” in the DPRK, as well as a marker of the period before the start, in late 2002, of a period of renewed political conflict between the DPRK, the United States, and it neighbors in Northeast Asia over the DPRK’s nuclear weapons development program; and
  • 2005, also a year in which observers have again noted an upward trend in some aspects of the DPRK economy, as well as the most recent year for which any published estimates on the DPRK’s energy sector and economy are available.
  • 2008, the last year in which the DPRK received heavy fuel oil from its negotiating partners in the Six-Party talks; and
  • 2009, the most recent year for which we have analyzed the DPRK’s energy sector.

Pyongyang’s winter power supply

Friday, December 7th, 2012


Pictured above: Huichon Power Station No. 2. Learn more about the power station here and here.

According to Radio Free Asia (RFA):

The power supply in the region had been significantly more consistent since the completion in April of the Huichon No. 2 Power Station—a hydroelectric plant located at a dam in Jagang province, about 175 kilometers (109 miles) northwest of the capital.

But the Pyongyang resident, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity during a recent trip to China, said that the dry season had rapidly depleted the dam’s water supply, hampering its rate of operation.

“The situation of Pyongyang’s electricity—which seemed okay until October—has returned to pre-dam levels,” the source said.

“I heard it is because of a lack of water during the winter.”

According to a report by the Associated Press, North Korean officials had touted the dam’s ability to provide “half of Pyongyang’s energy needs” as recently as June.

But even then, the AP reported, citing the plant’s general manager Kim Su Gil, drought had left the river above the dam too low for the power station to reach full capacity.

Select priorities

With the further lack of water during the winter dry season, the source in Pyongyang said, the dam was able to provide regular power to only a few select buildings in the capital, which included monuments to the Kim family regime and dwellings for the city’s elite.

“Only the Kim idolization facilities, apartments for Central Party officials, the [43-story] Koryo Hotel and [the new] Changjeon St. [housing development] have 24-hour electricity, while the districts where ordinary people live can only use electricity for five hours a day,” the source said.

North Korea maintains gathering places for citizens to show their allegiance to ruler Kim Jong Un, his father Kim Jong Il, who died of a heart attack in December last year, and his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the nation’s founder.

The 100,000-home development underway on Changjeon St., which former leader Kim Jong Il ordered after reportedly declaring the streets of the capital to be “pitiful” upon his return from a trip to China, and the Koryo Hotel, the second-largest operating hotel in the city, are two of Pyongyang’s few showpieces.

Electricity for ordinary residents is provided only late at night or around dawn so that people cannot use it during the evening when they really need it, the source said.

He added that people in the capital had come to see the preferential treatment for the city’s elite as “severe discrimination.”

Even in Sinuiju city—which neighbors China’s Dandong city and has traditionally enjoyed a reliable power supply due to its designation as an experimental market economy zone in North Pyongan province—ordinary residents are being limited to five hours a day of electricity, the source said.

He said an area of the city near a statue of Kim Il Sung was recently enjoying 24-hour electricity.

Read the full story here:
New Power Plant Falls Short
Radio Free Asia
Joon Ho Kim


North Korea at night (2012-9-24)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Eric T. passes along this amazing satellite photo of the Korean peninsula taken at night on 2012-9-24:

The photo comes from NASA. Click image to see larger version.

When I get some time (maybe this weekend) I will see if I can put names to the lights in North Korea.

Here is the text from the NASA web page:

City lights at night are a fairly reliable indicator of where people live. But this isn’t always the case, and the Korean Peninsula shows why. As of July 2012, South Korea’s population was estimated at roughly 49 million people, and North Korea’s population was estimated at about half that number. But where South Korea is gleaming with city lights, North Korea has hardly any lights at all—just a faint glimmer around Pyongyang.

On September 24, 2012, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view of the Korean Peninsula. This imagery is from the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as gas flares, auroras, wildfires, city lights, and reflected moonlight.

The wide-area image shows the Korean Peninsula, parts of China and Japan, the Yellow Sea, and the Sea of Japan. The white inset box encloses an area showing ship lights in the Yellow Sea. Many of the ships form a line, as if assembling along a watery border.

Following the 1953 armistice ending the Korean War, per-capita income in South Korea rose to about 17 times the per-capital income level of North Korea, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Worldwide, South Korea ranks 12th in electricity production, and 10th in electricity consumption, per 2011 estimates. North Korea ranks 71st in electricity production, and 73rd in electricity consumption, per 2009 estimates.


DPRK registers six CDM projects with UNFCC

Monday, November 5th, 2012

I have previously written about two of the DPRK’s registered CDM projects: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1 (Registered May 16, 2012) and Kumya Hydro Power Plant (Registered July 13, 2012). I have collected all previous posts on the DPRKs efforts to join the UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) here.

After the painful experience of navigating the UN FCC’s CDM web page I discovered that there are four other registered CDM hydropower projects in the DPRK:

Paekdusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2
Registered Jul13, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The approximate location of the Paekdusan Songun Youth Power Station No. 2

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

Total installed capacity of the project will be 14 MW, consisting of two sets of 7 MW hydropower turbines and associated generators.

According to the UN documents, the project is expected to be put into operation on January 1, 2014.

The organizations listed on the document are the Namgang Hydropower Construction Complex and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic)

Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4
Registered July 20, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): The approximate location of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The installed capacity of the project is 10 MW, which consists of 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW each. The project will generate the electricity energy of 40,030 MWh and supply 38,640 MWh to the WPG in a year.

According to the UN documents, the project is expected to be put into operation on December 1, 2012. This facility was last featured on the DPRK evening news on 2012-11-8. See the footage here.

The organizations listed on the document are the Kumchon Electric Power Company  and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 5
Registered August 22, 2012

Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction work on the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 5.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The installed capacity of the project is 10 MW, which consists of 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW each. The project will generate electric energy of 41,150 MWh and supply 40,616 MWh.

Organizations listed in the document include the Kangdong Hydro Power Construction Company and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

According to the documents, the project is planned to be put into operation on May 1, 2012. The most recent Google Earth satellite imagery is dated Spetember 5, 2011 and the last time the project was featured on North Korean television was November 5, 2011. I am skeptical that the project was finished on time since the opening of the dam has yet to be announced publicly.

Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3
Registered October 23, 2012


Pictured Above (Google Earth): Construction work on the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3.

The UN FCC documents on the registration of the power plant can be seen here.

The project with an installed capacity of 10 MW, 4 sets of generating facilities with a capacity of 2.5 MW
respectively. The project will generate the electricity energy of 42,800 MWh and supply the electricity of 41,310

Organizations listed in the document include the Tosan Electric Power Company and Topič Energo s.r.o. (Czech Republic).

Though the plant is supposed to go into operation on July 1, 2012, the most recent Google Earth imagery from 2012-11-8 shows the plan remains uncompleted. The last time the plant was featured on North Korean television was 2011-6-25.

Additional information:
The DPRK applied for seven of its hydro power project to be registered with the UNFCC’s CDM program.  Five of the seven have been registered.  Those that have yet to be registered are the Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.3, Wonsan Army-People Hydropower Project No.1.


DPRK registers second carbon trading project: Kumya Hydro Power Plant

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

The DPRK has registered its second Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project: The Kumya Hydro Power Plant.

Here is the official UN web page containing all of the technical information.

Here is an older Google Earth satellite image featuring the approximate location of the dam and power station (39.554552°, 127.164363°):

The Hanns Seidel Foundation (Facebook page here) visited the site and took this photo:

The dam was also featured on the North Korean evening news on 2012-9-28, however, it appears to be known domestically as the “Kumya-gang Power Station No. 2 (금야강2호발전소)”. You can see it here at the 3:36 mark:

Additional Information:
1. The DPRK’s first CDM project: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1

2. I have collected lots of information on the DPRK’s CDM efforts. You can read about them here.


The New Huichon Power Station providing electricity to Pyongyang

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES)

Completed in April, Huichon Power Station is confirmed to be supplying electricity to the capital of Pyongyang. The No. 1 and No.2 hydro powerplants of Huichon are located on the upper reaches of Chongchon River with power generation capacity amounting to 300,000 kilowatts.

According to Choson Sinbo, Japan’s pro-North Korean news agency, Huichon Power Plant will be the main supplier of power to Pyongyang. Prior to its construction, Pyongyang Thermal Power Plant, East Pyongyang Thermal Power Plant, and Bukchang Thermal Power Plants provided electricity to the capital.

In the article, Kim, Myung-chul, DPRK official from the Ministry of Electric Power Industry stated, “Huichon Power Plant is helping the power supply of Pyongyang to a considerable extent. It is offering quality supply of electricity to the citizens.”

He also added, “In the past, power supply was unsatisfactory compared to the demand. Now, through a newly installed transmission lines, power can be supplied to the residents of Pyongyang with stable frequency and voltage.”

In recent years, the number of new apartments and other commercial and cultural facilities has drastically increased in Pyongyang and consequently, there is a growing demand for stable power supply. The news reported, ten additional small-to-medium power stations are expected to be constructed on the banks of Chongchon River.

Construction of Huichon Power Plant started in March 2009 as an initiative of Kim Jong Il, to solve the power shortage problem in Pyongyang. The plant originally began construction in 2001 but, Kim Jong Il pushed for swift completion by 2012, in time for the celebration of a strong and prosperous nation by 2012.

Kim Jong Il visited the construction site of Huichon over eight times from 2009 to 2011, and inspected Huichon as his first official activity of 2010, revealing the significance attached to the power plant.

North Koreans are branding the Huichon Power Station as a “monumental creation” and even included in the highly regarded, Arirang Mass Games program this year.

North Korea suffered from a widespread lack of electricity and has turned to hydoelectric power to supplement diminishing supplies of coal. The hydro powerplant of Huichon is expected not only solve the electricity shortage but also protect the farms and cities nearby from frequent flooding.

*Previous posts on the Huichon Power Stations here and here.


DPRK’s first CDM project registered: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Pictured above: Chowon-ri, Jongphyong County (초원리, 정평군) on Google Earth (coordinates: 39.662431°, 127.315594°). The satellite imagery is too old to show the new dam and power station.

A valued reader notified me this morning that the DPRK’s first CDM project was registered in July: The Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No.1.

You can read more about the project on the UN web page here. As I understand it, the CER (the emissions rights) from the plant do not go directly to North Korea but to a Czech company who co-registered the project. It will become operational on January 1, 2013.

Here is KCTV footage showing the construction of the plant that aired on 2012-4-3:


Further information on the DPRK’s CDM efforts can be found here.


DPRK power consumption at 1970s levels

Monday, August 6th, 2012


Pictured above: (L-Yonhap) Estimated energy consumption in the DPRK; (R) IEA graph of DPRK energy production

Statistics Korea published information on DPRK energy consumption originally published by the International Energy Agency. I have added a link to the IEA’s DPRK data on my DPRK Economic Statistics Page.

The original data is behind a firewall (as best I can tell), so here is coverage of the report in the Daily NK:

Based on International Energy Agency (IEA) documentation, the statistics, which were made public on the 6th via Statistics Korea’s ‘North Korea Statistics Portal’, reveal that per capita electricity consumption in 2008 remained just 819kWh, substantially lower than the 919kWh recorded in 1971.

The figures are just the latest symbolic indicator of the protracted economic decline that began in the 1990s, when the national economy collapsed following the fall of the Soviet Union and the sudden demand that the majority of fuel imports be paid for in hard currency.

Rooted in the provision of low cost fuel by its larger communist neighbors, North Korean electricity consumption had risen steadily until 1991. By 1980 it had reached 1114kWh per capita, a figure that rose again over the next decade to reach 1247kWh by 1990. However, by 1995 it had declined precipitously to 912kWh, and at its nadir in 2000 per capita usage figure was just 712kWh.

This decline was subsequently arrested; however, the following seven years (including 2004 (787kWh), 2005 (817kWh), 2006 (797kWh) and 2007 (762kWh)) reflected how the country was (and remains) unable to recover to the 1990 standard, with population growth outstripping improvements in electricity generation.

In 1971, North Korea had a population of just 14.6 million, but by 2008 this was estimated to have risen to 23.9 million.

Here is coverage in Yonhap.

Read the full story here:
Economic Collapse Reflected in Scarce Electricity
Daily NK
Kim Tae Hong


On DPRK efforts to join UN carbon market

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

UPDATE 14 (2012-12-13): Robert Winstanley-Chesters has some additional data here.

UPDATE 13 (2012-10-23): The DPRK has registered its second CDM project: Kumya Hydro Power Plant.

Here is the official UN web page containing all of the technical information.

Here is an older Google Earth satellite image featuring the approximate location of the dam and power station (39.554552°, 127.164363°):

The Hanns Seidel Foundation (Facebook page here) visited the site and took this photo:

The dam was also featured on the North Korean evening news on 2012-9-28–although domestically it is known as the “Kumya-gang Power station No. 2 (금야강2호발전소)”. You can see it here at the 3:36 mark:

UPDATE 12 (2012-8-16): DPRK’s first CDM project registered: Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No. 1

Pictured above: Chowon-ri, Jongphyong County (초원리, 정평군) on Google Earth (coordinates: 39.662431°, 127.315594°). The satellite imagery is too old to show the new dam and power station.

A valued reader notified me this morning that the DPRK’s first CDM project was registered in July: The Hamhung Hydro Power Plant No.1.

You can read more about the project on the UN web page here. As I understand it, the CER (the emissions rights) from the plant do not go directly to North Korea but to a Czech company who co-registered the project. It will become operational on January 1, 2013.

Here is KCTV footage showing the construction of the plant that aired on 2012-4-3:


UPDATE 11 (2012-6-5): In addition to the seven power plants submitted for approval below (update 10), the DPRK is involved in several other “Programmes of Activities (POAs)“.

You can see all the POAs by clicking here and selecting DPRK as “Host Country”.

Here is a summary:

1. Methane Utilization and Destruction Programme from Animal Waste Management System (AWMS) in DPR Korea

2. Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme from Industrial Wastewater in DPR Korea

3. CarbonSoft Open Source PoA, LED Lighting Distribution: Emerging Markets

4. Coal Mine Methane Utilisation and Destruction Programme in DPR Korea

5. International water purification programme

6. CFL Lighting Scheme in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

UPDATE 10 (2012-6-2): The creator of Nord Korea Info passed along the following information on the DPRK’s CDM projects:

1. Naenara, one of the DPRK’s official news outlets, has posted numerous CDM documents.  You can see them here.

2. Information posted to the UNFCC web page on specific CDM projects:

A. Kumya Hydropower Plant
B. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.3 (Comments)
C. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.4 (Comments)
D. Ryesonggang Hydropower Plant No.5 (Comments)
E. Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
F. Wonsan Army-People Hydropower Project No.1 (Comments)
G. Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1

UPDATE 9 (2012-5-31): Bloomberg Businessweek reports on the DPRK’s efforts to sell carbon credits:

[U]nder the terms of the [Kyoto] protocol, North Korea, as a developing country and a member of the United Nations, has the right to build clean energy projects that may apply for Certified Emission Reductions, or CERs, popularly known as carbon credits. The North Koreans can then sell them to a rich country or company that needs the credits to offset its own greenhouse gases. Dig into data from the UN’s Framework Convention on Climate Change, and you will find seven North Korean projects registered for carbon trading.

This is where Miroslav Blazek comes in. Blazek, director of Czech company Topic Energo, acts as a link between North Korea and potential carbon credit buyers. He says his experience as manager of a tractor factory in socialist-era Czechoslovakia is invaluable for doing business with the communist North Koreans. “I can work with them because I understand how their system works,” he says. “If I send an e-mail and still don’t have a reply in several days, I know it’s not because they didn’t see it but because it had to work its way through the chain of command. For me it’s like a trip down memory lane.”

North Korea is now building seven hydroelecrtric plants, which provide some of the cleanest energy going. Most can earn tradable carbon credits. Blazek says the North Koreans “jumped” at the opportunity to get into carbon trading: “They immediately grasped that this is a way to make money.” Korea’s seven dams may generate as many as 241,000 CERs a year, worth almost €1 million ($1.3 million). “The projects are already in a relatively advanced phase,” says Ondrej Bores, director of carbon advisory services at Virtuse Energy in Prague, who’s worked with Blazek on other deals.

Still, selling anything made in North Korea has its challenges. More than 30 potential buyers pulled out because of the U.S. embargo on trade with North Korea. Blazek finally struck a deal with a Chinese-controlled conglomerate that needs credits to offset emissions from facilities in Europe. He won’t name the company, citing a confidentiality clause.

The Prague Post also reported on this story.

UPDATE 8 (2012-2-14): I have been notified that the certification program is proceeding. From a reader:

There has been a statement by the 1718 committee (on sanctions) that CDM projects in NK do not violate UN rules.

[Seven] hydropower plants did get their validation and underwent a process of “clarifications and corrections” as foreseen by UN rules. After the final report (which might have been already issued or might be issued soon) they will go for final vote to the UNFCCC.

Currently, North Korea works on projects as diverse as methane gas from coal mines, biogas and electricity-saving light bulbs.

UPDATE 7 (20120-1-23): Read an update on the Huichon Power Stations 1 & 2 and the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 & 3 here.

UPDATE 6 (2011-7-11): It looks like none of the DPRK power stations have been approved by the UNFCC for the CDM program as of this date.  A reader notes:

[I] just searched through the entire CDM database with the category numbers for these projects, and as far as I can see none of these has got beyond validation phase['s] comments phase, and judging by some of the comments – “It is evident from the PDD [Project Design Document] that the values are consistent and it is definitely forged and cooked up values to show a non CDM project as a CDM project” – being one of the more polite, that I’d be amazed if they make it beyond that. [It] looks like the DPRK hasn’t got its environmental and managerial audit systems quite up to date yet.

UPDATE 5 (2011-7-11): I just checked the UNFCC web page, and it appears that in addition to the hydro power plants mentioned below, the North Koreans also submitted the “Energy Efficiency Improvement Project in Pyongyang Textile Factory” [sic] for carbon offsets on May 23, 2011. According to the UNFCC web page, the project is in the portfolio of the Carbon-Trade Division, GBCIO, Ministry of Foreign Trade.

UPDATE 4 (2011-7-11): DPRK begins construction of Ryesonggang Power Stations 3 and 4

Pictured above (Google Earth): Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (례성강청년발전소).

Back in March of this year, the DPRK registered eight potential power plants with the UNFCC which it intended to construct to obtain carbon offset credits.  These eight hydro-power plants are:

Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1
Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2
Kumya Hydropower Plant
Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 3
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 4
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 5
Wonsangunmin 20MW Hydropower Project No. 1

On June 25th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 3 (례성강청년3호발전소).  I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

On June 28th the DPRK evening news featured footage of the construction of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Station No. 4 (례성강청년4호발전소).  I have uploaded the footage to YouTube and you can see it here.

I have not had the time to pinpoint the exact locations of these power stations using Google Earth.  Since the imagery is older, it will take some time to match up the mountain contours.  However, we have a general idea where they are located: between the Ryesonggang Power Stations 2 and 6.  These are mapped out in the image at the top of this post.  The satellite imagery is of Thosan (토산군) and Kumchon (금천군) counties.

Since I have a job, am in graduate school, am a landlord, and running this web page, I have not had time to follow up with the UNFCC to see if they have approved these projects for the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). If there is an enterprising journalist or reader who cares to find out the answer, please let me know.

UPDATE 3 (3/23/2011): According to the UNFCC web page (select Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the “Host Party” box), these are the eight power stations that have been submitted for consideration:

Hamhung Hydropower Plant No.1
Hamhung 20MW Hydropower Plant No. 2
Kumya Hydropower Plant
Paekdusan Songun Youth 14MW Hydropower Project No.2
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 3
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 4
Ryesonggang Hydropower Project No. 5
Wonsangunmin 20MW Hydropower Project No. 1

The UNFCC web page does not mention the locations, size, or power generation capacity for most of the dams, but I am sure that information will trickle out over time. With the exception of the Kumya Power Station (See satellite image below), none of these facilities are visible on Google Earth–but related facilities are: the Paektusan Power Station 1 (See satellite image below) and Ryesonggang Power Station 1, 2, 6 (See satellite image below).  The Hamhung Power Stations are probably in or near Hamhung, and the Wonsangumin project is probably near Wonsan.

And according to an email from the UNFCC:

This list contains all the projects which have already started and for which a notification of CDM prior consideration has been submitted. This notification is necessary to prove that the incentive of the CDM was a decisive factor for taking up the project when a project has started before a project design document (PDD) has been published for global stakeholder consultation or a new methodology in connection with the project has been submitted. However, kindly note that these projects have not yet entered the CDM project cycle as lined out in the CDM rules, requirements and procedures, and to submission for registration has yet been made.

Further details on the CDM project cycle are available here:

More information will be added here as time passes.

UPDATE 2 (3/11/2011): The DPRK has apparently registered eight power plants with the UNFCC.  According to Reuters:

North Korea has registered eight hydroelectric plants with the United Nations, and if approved, could allow the world’s most reclusive state to sell carbon offsets to earn precious hard currency.

These hydropower projects were registered with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for prior consideration in getting carbon credits, some of which have a capacity of 20 megawatts, the UNFCCC website showed.

Prior consideration is the first step for accreditation toward the U.N.’s Clean Development Mechanism that allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions from clean-energy projects.

Bernhard Seliger, a messenger for North Korean officials on these projects, said the United Nations uploaded the information on Thursday after he submitted related forms on behalf of the North Korean government’s carbon trade division in late February.

“I have no idea when the U.N. makes a decision… North Korea has to finish the power plants, which up to now are only half-finished dams,” Seliger, Hanns Seidel Foundation’s representative in South Korea, told Reuters via email.

Analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, concerned the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

The UNFCC web page is not stranger friendly.

UPDATE 1 (3/8/2011): According to the Guardian:

North Korea hopes to earn much-needed hard currency by selling UN-backed carbon offsets from a series of hydro-power projects, as the country faces sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

If approved and registered by the UN, these would be the first projects for North Korea under a scheme called the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). This allows developing countries to earn tradeable carbon credits for emissions reductions from clean-energy projects.

Some analysts questioned the demand for carbon credits from North Korea, with fears the money might be siphoned off to nuclear arms or other military projects.

The government has asked the Hanns Seidel Foundation of Germany, which focuses on humanitarian issues, to act as a go-between by working with UN-approved verification agency TUV Nord.

According to Bernhard Seliger, the foundation’s representative in South Korea, North Korea is initially looking at trying to get approval for three hydro power plants of 7-8 megawatts (MW).

Seliger visited the three hydro-plant construction sites in the north-east corner of the country in January.

In a statement, TUV Nord confirmed the foundation had engaged their services.

“In this respect, TUV Nord intends to verify hydropower dams in North Korea once pre-registered with United Nations framework conventions on climate change [UNFCCC] via the Beijing branch of its Chinese subsidiary TUV Nord Guangzhou,” it said.

If registered, the plants could yield millions of euros over several years.

Beijing-based lawyer Tom Luckock, who specialises in projects that curb greenhouse gas emissions, estimated that an 8 MW hydro plant could yield about 23,000 UN offsets a year.

The offsets, called Certified Emissions Reductions (CERs), are generated from registered CDM projects, such as wind farms, that are rewarded for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The offsets currently trade at nearly €12 (£10) each and are bought by governments in rich nations that need to meet UN emissions reduction targets.

Europe is the biggest buyer, with large polluting firms allowed to buy the offsets to meet a portion of their emissions reduction targets under the EU’s emissions trading scheme.

“Finding ways to secure foreign currency is the priority for North Korea, which is linked to everything from food to raw material imports to boost reduced productivity,” said Cho Myung-chul, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for International Economic Policy.

Seliger said North Korea, which signed the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate pact in 2005, was also interested in biomass power generation projects under the CDM.

The UN-approved national agency that assesses and approves CDM projects in North Korea was not available for comment.

Questions remained on demand for North Korean CERs.

“Even if they open up, who in the world wants to pay for North Korea that is blamed for its nuclear weapons programme?” said Choi Soo-young, a senior researcher at the Korea Institute for National Unification.

Cho said the UN needed to prevent outside cash going into its nuclear development activities, while Luckock, of global law firm Norton Rose, said: “Their limited access to hard currency has to be a concern for buyers – the damages clauses will carry limited weight without some security there.”

Another challenge is that North Korea would have to make public its energy consumption and generation data and disclose information on the amount of energy linked to the hydro project.

“Annual inspection, constant measurement and energy flow posting on the [UNFCC] website – all these things are new for North Korea,” Seliger said.

According to the AFP:

“We are talking about eight power plants, with the smallest size about 7.5 megawatts. These are not big projects but small or medium-sized projects,” Bernhard Seliger told AFP.

None has yet been completed, he said.

“I saw some (construction) sites in South Hamkyong province but that’s not all. There are other plants in other regions,” Seliger said, adding that some of the projects are led by the UN Development Programme.

The Hanns Seidel Foundation has been working since 2003 to build the North’s development capacity, and in 2008 organised a seminar on carbon trading for Pyongyang officials at their request.

The tradeable credits, called Certified Emissions Reductions, are awarded for approved clean-energy projects such as hydropower plants or wind farms.

Big polluters elsewhere in the world can buy them as part of their efforts to cut emissions.

Seliger said his foundation is helping the North to prepare for the auditing process required to join the UN carbon credit trading system known as the Clean Development Mechanism.

“One good thing about this project is that it is very transparent, involving monitoring and auditing on an annual basis… I think it is very good for North Korea to participate in such an international regime,” said Seliger.

An official at a South Korean state agency, the Korea Energy Management Corp, said registration would take at least a year or two and it was unclear how much the North would be able to earn if approved.

The official, who declined to be identified, said a typical eight-megawatt hydropower plant could yield about 19,500 carbon credits each year, each of which was currently traded at 12 euros in global markets.

This would amount to around $327,000 a year.

But some buyers may shun the communist state, given its history of nuclear and missile development which has led to international sanctions.

“Government buyers will certainly shy away from dealing with the North,” said Koo Jung-Han, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Finance.

“But private companies have few reasons not to buy credits from the North as long as it can offer a competitively low price. However, the big question is whether the North will be able to build the plants without outside financiers.”

Koo said that countries hoping to buy carbon credits from upcoming overseas projects often encourage investment in the ventures by their own finance companies.

“But what kind of financial companies will take a plunge in projects in such a volatile, politically risky country like North Korea?”

The North suffers persistent power shortages even in the showpiece capital Pyongyang.

Many rural areas receive power only during key agricultural seasons, and must rely for the rest of the year on alternative fuels, according to a recent policy paper published by the Nautilus Institute think-tank.

Here are the web pages for the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Program.

I am not sure which hydro power stations the DPRK is planning to submit to the UN, but many have been been highlighted in North Korean “media” in recent years:

Kumya River Dam
A dam is being constructed in Kumya County, South Hamgyong Province, to provide electrical power. Kim Jong-il last visited in August 4, 2010. It is just one of several dams under currently under construction in the DPRK.

Here is a satellite image of the Kumya dam’s construction (Google Earth: 11/25/2008,  39.574232°, 127.104736°)

This new reservoir will flood the locations of three villages (리): Ryongnam-ri (룡남리), Ryongsang-ri (룡상리), and Ryongchon-ri (룡천리).

Estimates of the reservoir size are made by me, but it is fairly obvious where the North Korean engineers expect the reservoir to flood because they have already relocated the villages from their former locations in the flood zone.

Kumjingang River Power Stations
Beginning in 2000, the DPRK has constructed three power stations on the Kumjin River (금진강) in  South Hamgyong Province.  The first was the Kumjingang Power Station (금진강발전소).  The second was the  Kumjingang Hungbong Youth Power Station (금진강흥봉청년발전소).  The third was the Kumjingang Kuchang Youth Power Station (금진강구창청년발전소).  All three are pictured below on Google Earth:

It does not appear that these projects have resulted in dislocated villages.

Wonsan Youth Power Stations
Below is a satellite image of the Wonsan Youth Power Stations No’s. 1-4 (원산청년발전소).   These projects required the construction of both the Kuryong Reservoir (구룡저수지) and an appx 8.5 mile (13.69km) tunnel to link the hydro power stations with their power source.  The inaugural ceremony for these facilities was on January 10, 2009.

The construction of the Kuryong Reservoir resulted in the dislocation of three villages: Kuryong-ri (구룡리), Konja-ri (건자리), and Haerang-ri (해랑리).

Orangchon Power Station No. 1
Kim Jong-il offered guidance at the Orangchon Power Station (어랑천1호발전소) in February 2007.  This facility will probably not be submitted to the UN for scrutiny because it lies just outside the security perimeter of what human rights groups assert is Kwan-li-so No. 16.

Anbyon Youth Power Stations No’s 1 & 2
The Anbyon Power Stations (안변청년1-2호발전소, 38.954400°, 127.538912°) are powered by waters from the Imnam Reservoir (임남저수지) via an underground tunnel nearly 45km in length.  Much more here.

The Imnam Reservoir flooded Chondo County’s capital city as well as appx 14 villages. The South Korean government was so worried about the Imnam Reservoir being used as a weapon that they built a dam downstream to prevent flooding should the DPRK release a large volume of water (38.209539°, 127.848760°).

Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations 1-6
Some of the Ryesonggang Youth Power Stations (례성강청년1-6호발전소, 38.367696°, 126.781096°) appear to be under construction in North Hwanghae Province.  The North Korean “media” has only broadcast images of the Ryesonggang Power Stations 1, 2, and 6 (all completed), so I presume that power stations 3, 4, and 5 are too new to show up on available Google Earth Satellite imagery. Below I post images of the distance between power stations 1 and 6 as well as close-ups of both facilities.

Power Station No. 1 was completed in 2007 and most recently received media attention in South Korea in September 2009 when the DPRK released a massive amount of water from its dam (Hwanggang Dam), causing floods in South Korea that killed six people. An estimated 40,000,000 short tons (36,000,000 t) of water was dumped during the flood, causing the water level at the border of Gyeonggi-do to leap from 7.5 feet (2.3 m) to 15.1 feet (4.6 m).

Power Station No. 2 (38.324008°, 126.673366°) has been completed, but it is too new to appear on Google Earth satellite imagery.  I have drawn it on Google Earth below:

Construction of Power Station No. 2 resulted in the dislocation of approximately 27 houses, but I have not been able to determine if any other villages were relocated due to construction of the other facilities.

Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations
The North Korean media has also done a lot of advertising for the Paektusan Songun Youth Power Stations (백두산선군청년발전소) in Paekam County, Ryanggang Province (41.716931°, 128.786163°).

These dams have resulted in the dislocation of  two small communities as well as the severing of the old railway lines that connected Unhung, Kilju and Paekam with Musan.  Maybe the railway lines have been moved to accommodate the new dams, but it is also unclear if these line were in use to begin with.

Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station
Up until recently I believed the Pukchang Ryongsan Power Station (북창룡산발전소, 39.596238°, 126.266478°) was a large-scale river-straightening project, but according to recent KCTV footage (which I posted to Youtube here) it is in fact a hydro power station.  Work on this project began sometime around the spring 2002 (as best I can tell).

Huichon Youth Power Stations
The Huichon Youth Power Stations No. 1 & 2 have received the most attention in the North Korean media.  I recently located them and will post something soon.

Since the DPRK will likely be subjecting several of these (or other) power plants to international scrutiny, I look forward to seeing that data published.  KCNA is short on details and the disclosed information would facilitate more accurate assessments of the DPRK’s domestic hydro-power generating capacities.

A reader writes in with the following comments:

I would like to share some comments on the potential CDM projects in north Korea as i have been working on this field for many years now.

Concerning existing hydropower plants:
To be eligible to a CDM project, one of the first criteria is the additionality of the project. You have to prove (the rules are very stricts) that the project would not have been launched without the consideration of the revenues from the reselling of the CERs.
So the Dams that have already been buit are not eligible.

Concerning hydropower plants that are being implemented:
The first step of a CDM project is to notify to the UNFCCC secretariat and to Designated National Authority (in this case the Secretariat of the National Coordinating Committee of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea for Environment) that you are seeking to establish your project as a CDM project.
Up to now, no such notification has been received by UNFCCC so it would be quiet difficult for projects being implemented to ask for the CDM status (i mean nearly impossible).

Some facts concerning future hydropower projects:
From the day you send the notification that you are seeking the CDM status to the day you are actually given the status, it takes in average 2 to 3 years (they would have to build the plants during this period)
Then it can be at least another year before you receive the CERs.
The price of 12 euro for a CER is for secondary market. The price for primary CER (directly sold by the producer) would be much less than 8 euro.
The figure of 20 000 CERs/year is completely unpredictable for the moment, here is a simplification of the calculation:
One CER is equal to one tonne of CO2 equivalent that would be avoided by producing clean electricity. For example when you produce 1 MW electricity from coal, the process releases X tonnes of CO2 in the atmosphere but when you produce 1 MW from a hydropower plant, you do not release CO2.
In order to calculate what the CDM project would be able to claim, we would have to know the CO2 emission factor of the North Korean grid and then multiply it by the amount of MWh produced by the CDM project.
If most of the electricity produced these days in North Korea already comes from hydropower plants, then the national emission factor will be low and the CDM project will not avoid a lot of CO2 emission (and so not earn a lot of €)
Without the capacity of the future project and the national emission factor, it is impossible to estimate the amount of CERs the project could generate.

The CDM status seems quiet unrealistic to obtain for North Korean projects but other international agreements are discussed these days and their outcome may be more adapted.

ORIGINAL POST (2011-1-31): According to Radio Free Asia:

Nuclear-armed but cash-starved North Korea has expressed interest in joining the world carbon market in an apparent bid to earn precious hard currency and avoid international sanctions, an expert told RFA.

But the secretive Kim Jong Il regime has to disclose critical information, such as energy consumption data as well as methods by which it derives energy, to be eligible for funding under the United Nations’ Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), said the North Korea expert, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The CDM is aimed at encouraging companies or organizations in the developed world to invest in carbon dioxide emissions-saving projects in developing countries.

In return for funding and technology transfer, investors receive carbon credits, which can then either be traded on carbon markets or used to reduce their own emissions tally if they are subject to a domestic cap.

The Kyoto Protocol set emission caps for 38 countries through 2012, establishing the CDM as a worldwide carbon market. It is a cornerstone of the group’s efforts to tackle global warming.

The North Korea expert told RFA on Jan. 13 that Pyongyang intended to apply for funding via the CDM and that the regime might list its proposed hydro-electricity power projects under the U.N. mechanism.

UN refrains from comment

When contacted on the North Korea move, the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), the secretariat charged with implementing the global environmental treaty to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, said it would refrain from commenting on individual country projects.

The North Korea expert estimated that one ton of carbon dioxide would trade for about U.S. $26 dollars and if a hydro-electric power project was registered under the CDM, depending on the carbon credit bid price, about U.S. $1 million dollars could be earned annually.

A hydro project registered under the CDM would need to be evaluated by U.N. inspectors for it to qualify for carbon credits. Usually, it would be evaluated continuously for about 14 years.

Details, including the amount of energy linked to the hydro project and potential reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, would have to be submitted.

North Korea has been mostly reluctant to share information about its energy generation activities.

According to the expert, North Korea has recently displayed “great interest” in the possibility of operating hydro-electric power stations to alleviate its domestic energy shortages and to acquire “carbon credits” that it could, in turn, sell on the international carbon market.

Hard currency

As North Korea’s economic crisis worsens, Pyongyang is seeking ways to earn hard currency following a failed currency reform and due to sanctions imposed by the international community over its nuclear and missile developments and provocations targeting South Korea.

The interest in the CDM is likely to be part of this search.

The North Korea expert also said that earning hard currency through “carbon credits” would not be subject to sanctions imposed on Pyongyang under UN Security Council resolutions, and that any North Korea’s application for participation under the CDM “may stand a chance.”

“For North Korea, this could be an opportunity to earn hard currency without engaging in illegal armament sales, while operating an electric power station in transparent fashion, and accepting strict monitoring by the UN, and abiding by applicable international standards.”

The United States has been pressing China to use its influence to persuade North Korea regime to end recent provocations and return to disarmament talks involving the three countries and South Korea, Russia and Japan.

The six-party nuclear talks were last held in 2008. The impoverished North has been seeking a restart to the nuclear negotiations, which propose to reward its gradual nuclear disarmament with phased infusions of economic aid.

In a bid to renew dialogue and ease chances of conflict, South Korea recently proposed holding a preliminary meeting with North Korea on Feb. 11 to prepare for high-level defense talks. On Friday, the North suggested parliamentary talks between the two sides.

Read the full story here:
North Korea Eyes Carbon Market
Radio Free Asia