Seoul Earth Hour Capital

Posted on 04 November 2015

Participatory action saves one nuclear reactor

Participatory action saves one nuclear reactor

Seoul, the capital of South Korea, is the 2015 Global Earth Hour Capital after winning the Earth Hour City Challenge, succeeding earlier winners Vancouver and Cape Town. Seoul impressed the jury with its massive Sunlight City solar program and its innovative financing schemes and outreach campaigns, including the Eco-Mileage program. According to the jury, Seoul serves as a role model for fast-growing cities in a rapidly developing Southeast Asia, as well as for the rest of the world.

Seoul was awarded the title Global Earth Hour Capital in Earth Hour City Challenge 2015
Keywords: Sunlight City, Eco-Mileage, participatory programs, solar PV, One less Nuclear Power Plant

Seoul completed the first phase of its One Less Nuclear Power Plant program ahead of schedule in 2014, achieving the goal of reducing the city’s energy consumption from external sources by two million TOE, roughly comparable to the energy production of a nuclear plant with 2-3 reactors (see also Seoul). It did this in less than three years through heavy investments in energy efficiency and local renewables, partly solar PV installations through its Sunlight City program.

Actions included investments in solar PVs, hydrogen cells, waste heat, geothermal energy, energy caps for new buildings, building retrofit programs, LED replacements, eco-friendly transportation and energy savings through active participation by citizens in conservation efforts.

Eco-Mileage program saved most

The latter accounted for 40%, the largest single part, of total reductions, mainly through the Eco-Mileage program, which rewards energy savings by citizen with points that can be used to purchase eco-friendly products and to receive financial support for retrofitting buildings. The program started in 2009 and more than tripled in size to 1.68 million participants - 47% of the city’s households - during the first phase of the One Less Nuclear Power Plant program. It won the UN Public Service Award in 2013. Another campaign was the Energy Guardian Angels, which recruited 30,000 students to watch over energy use in schools and at home.

Second phase of program

The overall goal of the second phase of the One Less Nuclear Power Plant program is to achieve a 20% self-sufficiency ratio in electricity by 2020, which equals another 4 million TOE of renewables production and energy conservation. In 2013, Seoul only produced 4.2% of its electricity, so this time renewables have to account for a larger share than in the first phase: 46% will come from the production of new and renewable energy and cogeneration and 54% from improvements in energy efficiency and conservation of energy. To achieve this, Seoul has increased its support for private installations of renewable energy.

The city has enhanced the Eco-Mileage program, linking it to its other energy-related projects such as production of new and renewable energy, building retrofits, and LED replacement (see also Los Angeles). The aim is to increase civic participation also in the production of renewables and energy efficiency.

Seoul has expanded its portfolio of financial incentives for small scale installations of solar PVs and energy efficiency measures, including subsidies worth 50% of the cost of mini rooftop PV panels, favorable loans, and an expanded Feed-in Tariff (see also San José).

Solar Power investments

Seoul´s investments in solar power up to 2020 include:
  • Distribution of 40,000 "micro PV power plants" that can be installed in verandas for the purpose of transforming citizens from energy consumers to energy producers and raising their awareness of eco-friendly energy,
  • Installation of 10MW “Solar Power Landmarks” along the city’s main streets,
  • Creation of a “Solar Power Generation Citizens’ Fund" for citizens to make direct investments in the PV power plant business and earn profits,
  • Expansion of roof-top installations on both public and private buildings.

And with continued investments in network fuel cells and its smart grid, Seoul is also building an infrastructure that can take advantage of small scale, intermittent electricity production (see also Austin).



City of Seoul, “One Less Nuclear Power Plant, Phase 2”,

Huffington Post, “Solar Seoul Shows How Eco-Friendly Cities Can Work”,

Climate & Environment Headquarters of Seoul Metropolitan Government, “Seoul moving towards becoming the Global Climate & Environment Capital”,
ICLEI, ICLEI Case Studies, “Seoul, Republic of Korea: The ‘One Less Nuclear Power Plant’ initiative”,

carbonn Climate Registry, City Climate Report: City of Seoul,

Text by: Martin Jacobson

Photovoltaic System in the Amsa-dong
© Seoul Metropolitan Government
Map - Seoul Earth Hour Capital (Urban solutions)
Changgyeong Palace
© Seoul Metropolitan Government
Mayor Park with the Energy Guardian Angels
© Seoul Metropolitan Government