As reported in The Korea Joongang Daily the town of Gujwa in northeastern Jeju last year became the only full test of a smart grid. Consequently, it has attracted international interest.
Around 6,000 homes are on the smart grid system and 168 companies are testing the grid’s technology, including the power company, telecommunications companies and even automobile and home appliances companies.
As of last month, about 270 billion won ($236 million) was invested and the companies involved in the project include SK Telecom, KT, LG Electronics and GS Caltex.
A smart grid is a digitally enhanced electrical grid that gathers, distributes and acts on information about both electricity providers and consumers in order to improve the efficiency of electricity services.
As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a larger version) the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology predicts that the global smart grid industry (including research) will expand from $200 billion last year to $238 billion in 2016 and $870 billion in 2030. Korea’s smart grid industry last year was around $3.8 billion in size, the institute said, and is expected to grow to $4.5 billion in 2016.
The Joongang Daily article is worth reading and this is a story that is worth following. South Korea clearly has the potential to be a world leader in smart grid technology. One of the most interesting aspects of this nation's broadband revolution of the 1990s was the role played by the Korea Electric Power Company (KEPCO). As described in some detail in my book with Dr. Myung Oh, KEPCO began installing fiber optic cable throughout its network as early as 1980. This meant that, when it came to the big push to build out commercial broadband services in the 1990s, the KEPCO fiber network became extremely valuable. Today, the simple fact that South Korea possesses the most extensive and advanced digital networks in the world would seem to suggest that it will utilize these networks, alongside the electric power supply grid, to become a leader in "smart grid" technology.