Audit uncovers large-scale irregularities related to renewable energy projects during Moon gov’t

Bomi Yoon

A spokesperson from Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) delivers the audit results of renewable energy projects during the previous Moon Jae-in administration at a press conference in Seoul, Nov. 14. Yonhap

A total of 251 officials at public institutions were found to have taken part in solar panel businesses to make money in violation of ethics regulations during the previous Moon Jae-in administration, the state audit agency said Tuesday.

The officials from eight institutions, including the state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO), ran solar panel businesses either under their own names or under the names of relatives, according to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI).

During the Moon administration, solar power was considered not only as clean and environmentally friendly energy but also as a potentially lucrative investment opportunity, with stability and long-term prospects supported by strong government backing.

An example includes a KEPCO official who operated six solar power stations under the names of relatives after using insider information, reaping a combined profit of 880 million won ($662,000), the BAI said.

In response to the announcement, KEPCO issued an apology and stated that it is currently investigating suspected officials accused of violating regulations that prohibit public officials from holding dual positions.

The KEPCO also said it is implementing the so-called “one-strike-out” policy, which involves dismissal of officials if intentional and significant misconduct is discovered.

The BAI also pointed out the energy ministry pushed ahead with its ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, despite knowing its slim chances, largely due to the Moon government’s goal.

In July 2017, the Moon administration rolled out the goal of increasing the proportion of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2030.

In December of that year, the Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy announced the detailed plan for its new energy road map, aiming to increase the ratio of renewable energy from 7 percent to 20 percent by 2030. In 2021, the ministry raised its goal to 30 percent.

At the time, the ministry announced it would build more solar and wind farms nationwide to nearly triple its renewable energy ratio by 2030, a project estimated at 110 trillion won.

However, the BAI audit on Tuesday revealed the ministry was aware that the goal was not feasible, considering several regulations on mountainous regions and a delay in large-scale wind power projects.

“There is an aspect of forcefully pursuing the goal within a short period, rather than setting a realistic target and proceeding at an appropriate pace.” the BAI said.

The BAI further said it has informed the energy ministry to establish policy goals after a thorough assessment of the feasibility of energy projects based on rational grounds. (Yonhap)

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