November 1, 2006｜Korean Peninsula
Dr. Seok Cheol-Won
Director, Association of Korean Social Scientists KASS
In the DPRK today, policies are being formulated in order to put in place solutions to its electricity problems that are suited to the country’s current situation.
One of the most positive measures for the DPRK in resolving its electricity problems is the production of electricity using the country’s hydropower resources. The DPRK has abundant hydropower resources and the effective use of these would have great significance in relation to the expansion of electricity production.
Over the last few years, through the construction of small-, medium- and large-scale hydroelectric power stations that make use of the country’s hydropower resources, the DPRK has been prioritizing the resolution of its electricity problems, which have become an urgent issue.
It is a fact that the construction of large-scale hydroelectric power stations takes a long time and requires significant amounts of money and labor, but once such facilities have been built, they do not cost much to run, and they are easy to maintain and operate, so they will play a major role in resolving the country’s electricity problems. In the DPRK, the construction of large-scale hydroelectricity stations is being vigorously promoted and many are being built, including the Anbyon Youth Power Station, and the Taechon No.1 and No.2 Power Stations, as well as the Taechon No.3 Youth Power Station. Currently, the construction of large-scale hydroelectric power stations is taking place across the country with investment from the state, including the Sansu Youth Power Station and the Geumya River Power Station.
Small and medium-sized hydroelectric power station require little investment, take little time to construct, are simple to run and can be built close to electricity-consuming areas, so they can be expected to be very useful in resolving electricity problems, including those relating to heating and lighting, in various areas of the country.
Since the 1990s, the construction of small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations with differing abilities to generate electricity along flows of water involving a drop in height, has been promoted in a major way in the DPRK. In response to demand for electricity amidst a situation in which the country is troubled by the electricity situation due to US pressure and economic sanctions, the efforts of the people in each region are being devoted to resolving the electricity problem themselves, and thanks to the small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations built in every area of the country over the last ten years, the electricity production potential of the DPRK has increased to an unprecedented level. In Chagang Province, 29 small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations were constructed in various forms over the six months or so from 1997, thereby developing a considerable amount of electricity generation capacity.
In the construction of small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations, in order to ensure that hydropower resources can be utilized to the maximum degree possible, cascade-style hydroelectric power stations are built along the flow of rivers; the scale of these varies from medium to small and even micro, with the forms being chosen to suit the situation and conditions in the area concerned. The electricity generation capacity of these small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations varies from several kilowatts to several hundred kilowatts, and the electricity generation format also differs according to the situation. In the city of Kanggye in Chagang Province, a floating power station (the turbine floats on the surface of the river to generate electricity) has been installed where the flow of the Changja River is fast, and the city is reaping the benefits of this.
Today, a succession of small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations is being constructed across the country in forms that are appropriate to the situation in each area, and the number of regions and units solving their electricity problems themselves is increasing by the day.
The electricity problems affecting the country’s economic development can only be resolved through the construction of large-scale hydroelectric power stations, so the integration of the construction of small and medium-sized hydroelectric power stations is one conceivable measure suited to the actual conditions in the DPRK that could be used in order to achieve this.
The DPRK is also home to thermal power stations and it has significant coal reserves. Amidst these conditions, the country is promoting the reconstruction and modernization of thermal power stations, and measures aimed at increasing their power generation capacity are being adopted. At the same time, the country is interested in electricity production using such methods as nuclear power, solar energy, wind power and methane gas, and various measures are being formulated for making effective use of the electricity produced. With Pyongyang as a model, card-style watt-hour meters are being introduced in institutions, businesses and homes across the country, and projects focused on the supply of compact (lightbulb-style fluorescent lamps) lighting equipment are also being implemented; through such measures, it has become possible to secure tens of thousands of kilowatts in reserve power in Pyongyang alone.
Through proactive efforts on the part of the people of the DPRK to find solutions based on the principle of self-reliance, in response to the actual situation with regard to electricity problems, the country’s electricity production potential is thought likely to increase in the future, thereby facilitating the smooth resolution of various problems arising in the process of building up the economy of the DPRK.