In 2021, North Korea utilized effectively two main sources of power generation: low-carbon energy and fossil fuels. The total electricity generation from these sources is 14.45 TWh, with the overwhelming majority, about 83%, coming from low-carbon energy and the rest largely from coal. Specifically, North Korea produced a significant 12 TWh from hydropower, making up almost the entire portion of its low-carbon energy generation. However, the country's per capita electricity generation is significantly below the global average of 412 watts per person. This low level of electricity generation can hinder economic growth and development as well as limit crucial services such as healthcare and education.
To increase its low-carbon electricity generation, North Korea could learn from other countries with successful low-carbon energy programs. Geographically close and technologically advanced countries like South Korea, China, and Russia could serve as role models in this regard. For instance, South Korea has made considerable strides in nuclear energy generation, producing 169 TWh in 2021. Similarly, China has successfully tapped into wind and solar energy, generating vast amounts of electricity as a result: 947 TWh through wind and 522TWh using solar. Finally, Russia has shown significant competence in nuclear energy, generating 217 TWh. These countries demonstrate the potential of diversifying into other forms of low-carbon energy besides hydroelectric power.
Historically, North Korea has primarily relied on hydropower for its low-carbon electricity generation. Starting in the 1980s, there was a gradual increase in hydroelectric power generation. However, the 1990s witnessed significant decreases, with an overall decline of over 4 TWh from 1992 to 1997. There was a slight recovery in the early 2000s, but this was followed by a period of fluctuations in the late 2000s and into the next decade. Despite these ups and downs in production, hydropower has remained the cornerstone of North Korea's efforts at low-carbon electricity generation throughout these periods. However, it's notable that, despite its massive hydroelectric resources, North Korea's hydropower program has had its share of challenges and has yet to reach its full potential. This history indicates a need for diversification and augmentation of the country's low-carbon energy sources.