Yoon Suk-yeol calls energy project waste by Moon ‘deplorable’
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Thursday that it was “deplorable” that taxpayers’ money was wasted on solar power and other renewable energy sources projects, a key policy of the Moon Jae-in administration.
“It’s truly deplorable that taxpayers’ money coming from their blood, sweat, and tears, which should be spent on supporting the welfare of those who are struggling, was used for corrupt acts by cartels with vested interests,” Yoon told reporters at the Yongsan presidential office.
When asked if he had any measures in mind in response to recent findings of irregularities in renewable energy sources projects, Yoon replied, “I believe any violations of the law should be dealt with through the regular judicial system.”
On Monday, the Office for Government Policy Coordination found that at least 261.6 billion won ($187 million), or some 12.5 percent of the 2.1 trillion won reserved for renewable energy projects, had been improperly managed over five years. The office conducted an 11-month joint probe into projects supported by the electric power industry infrastructure fund by 12 local governments and unearthed 2,267 cases of illegalities or mismanagement.
The electric power industry infrastructure fund gets 3.7 percent of electricity bills.
The mismanaged funds related to solar power projects alone amounted to 210.8 billion won, and included cases of fake mushroom cultivation and insect breeding facilities, built specifically to get loans reserved for solar panel farms. There were instances of fake tax invoices, poor accounting, inflated construction costs, contracts with unregistered companies and falsified documents.
As the Government Policy Coordination Office conducted the probe on only a sample of 12 out of a total of 226 local governments, it expects to find more irregularities if its expands the probe.
Yoon reportedly said Tuesday after he was briefed on the findings that people who misused taxpayers’ money should be “severely punished.”
Some conservative lawmakers are blaming influential figures in the Moon government for giving preferential treatment to some solar power and other renewable energy projects.
In 2017, the Moon government pledged to generate 20 percent of the country’s electricity with renewable energy sources by 2030 while reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power. To keep this promise, the administration provided generous subsidies and loans for projects, including the installing of solar panels.
Solar panel projects have also been criticized by environmentalists, with over 2 million trees cut down during the Moon administration to build solar farms on mountainsides.
In a briefing Thursday, Oh Yeong-hwan, a spokesman for the liberal Democratic Party (DP), expressed worries that the Yoon government is trying to “erase the efforts of the previous government,” adding that the Moon government’s solar power policy had been “in line with the global trend to expand renewable energy sources.”
Park Hong-keun, DP floor leader, characterized Yoon’s criticism of the solar power projects as a “blame the previous government” mindset from a “prosecutors’ point of view.”
But he said “if there were any illegalities, they should be rectified.”
Sung Il-jong, the People Power Party’s (PPP) top policymaker, told MBC radio Thursday, “If there were any illegalities or problems, additional measures should be taken.”
He acknowledged the seriousness of the recent probe. “There were only 12 local governments investigated, but what if it was expanded to the whole country? I think there is something clearly wrong [with the energy projects].”
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]