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Renewable Energy in Trade Wars: Solar Power in South Korea’s Energy Mix and the Impact of Protectionism
Author: June Park
Region: Asia
Location: Korea, South
Published January 2, 2019
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This paper examines the impacts of global competition in solar panel production and the conflict of domestic interests among solar-related industries in the U.S. on South Korea’s solar-focused renewable energy policy. Examining the Moon Jaein administration’s energy policy amid the impact of the U.S. safeguard on South Korean solar panels, the paper argues a) the U.S. safeguard is a hindrance to South Korea’s path forward on solar panel production, and b) Moon’s sole focus on sustainability and his ambitious solar energy target will result in further adoption of lower-cost Chinese solar panels, foregoing the opportunity to upgrade South Korean panels. As South Korean firms announce their decisions to relocate to the U.S. to avoid U.S. safeguard tariffs, the paper recommends the destinations of South Korean solar panel exports be diversified and the goals of South Korean energy policy be centered on balancing cost, stability, and sustainability. The paper does not necessarily recommend a full-fledged drive on expanding solar energy use in South Korea; rather, it calls for the strategic reevaluation of energy policy upon which a clear and sound strategy for solar energy should be formulated

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