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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Ex-WEC chair says S. Korea can become key player in future energy market

Interviews 15:02 November 18, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES paras 3, 7)
By Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, Nov. 18 (Yonhap) -- In the past, those with resources and money were considered the majors in the energy market, but Younghoon David Kim, former chief of the World Energy Council (WEC), believes that power will shift to those with technologies in the future and that South Korea is in a great position to become one of the leaders.

With the global energy market moving towards the "3Ds" -- decarbonization, decentralization and digitalization -- Kim, the first South Korean to led the WEC, said South Korea's technological prowess in information and communication and battery technologies offer a great opportunity.

"People now say energy efficiency is the '5th energy source' in addition to coal, hydrocarbons, nuclear and renewable energy," Kim said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "Digitalization is linked with energy efficiency. I believe South Korea can further play a big role in this segment with its technologies."

In this photo provided by Daesung Group, former World Energy Council Chair Younghoon David Kim speaks in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at his office in Seoul on Nov. 14, 2019. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

In particular, Kim said the rise of renewable energies, such as solar and wind, bodes well for South Korea.

"You can't control solar and wind, and that brings a problem of intermittency," he said. "In order to secure a stable power supply from renewables, you need energy storage systems, which South Korean companies are good at."

Kim acknowledged that competition with Japanese and Chinese rivals is tough, but there should be no big concern for the country, as South Korean energy storage systems (ESS) firms like LG Chem Ltd., Samsung SDI Co. and SK Innovation Co. are well-positioned as top-tier players.

"I think they really selected their future business items well," he said. "I think ESS will become South Korea's cash cow in the future, like semiconductors and smartphones are these days."

Kim completed his three-year term at the WEC, a U.N.-accredited global energy body with more than 3,000 member organizations in over 90 countries, in September. He now serves as the WEC's honorary chair.

"It was a happy ending," Kim said of completing his WEC chair job. "In the meantime, I would also say it's a wonderful beginning."

Kim said one of his biggest achievements at the WEC was giving the energy body a new vision. Instead of focusing on energy security topics based on fossil fuels, the London-based non-profit organization now tries to find solutions for a better future with innovative technologies, according to the 67-year-old businessman.

"I had to change almost everything after I became the chair" he said. "Of course, it wasn't an easy job, but what's important is that officials there eventually accepted my vision and plan."

This photo provided by Daesung Group shows Younghoon David Kim (R), then the World Energy Council chair, attending an event at the 24th World Energy Congress in Abu Dhabi on September 11, 2019. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (YONHAP)

Asked about how his Daesung Group is preparing for the future energy market, Kim mentioned white biotechnology -- using microbes and enzymes to produce chemical products and biofuels. Kim has been leading the mid-size energy conglomerate since 2001.

According to industry data, the global white biotechnology market was estimated at $238.9 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach $472.3 billion by 2025.

"I believe microbes will be an important power source within 50 years," Kim said. "Of course, we need more efforts to commercialize and mass-produce microbial energy, but we made a good take-off for the market."

In line with his white biotechnology vision, Kim said he has also set his sights on the water and food industries.

"Water and food are the two things that I'm focusing on these days because they're closely related to energy," he said. "If I get another chance to work for an international body next time as I did with the WEC, it will be a water- or food-related organization."

kdon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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