SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Yonhap) -- President Lee Myung-bak marked the start of operation at the world's largest tidal power plant in South Korea on Monday, calling it a "symbol" of his trademark "low-carbon, green growth" policy of seeking clean energy sources.
The power plant at the artificial sea-water Lake Shihwa on the west coast near Seoul began partial operation early this month after nearly seven years of construction. Six of the 10 generators have been running since Aug. 3, and the others will go into operation in stages after test-running.
If fully completed in December, the Shihwa station will be the biggest tidal power plant in the world with a generation capacity of 254,000 kilowatts. The capacity of the Rance Tidal Power Station in France, currently the world's largest, is 240,000 kilowatts.
The plant can provide enough electricity to a city with a population of 500,000.
"Now, we are in front of the world's largest, Shihwa tital power plant," Lee said during a ceremony at the plant to mark the start of its operation, according to a text of his speech provided by the presidential office.
"This is not only a symbol of 'low-carbon, green growth,' but also represents a landmark on the path the world should take," he said.
Lee said that the plant will not only save South Korea more than 860,000 barrels of oil or 100 billion won (US$93 million) a year but also reduce the emission of 320,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the main culprit of global warming.
Stressing the importance of securing stable sources of energy, Lee said his government has been stepping up "resources diplomacy" under a goal to get at least 20 percent of the nation's total energy needs from the sources it owns overseas.
Lee has increased South Korea's energy self-sufficiency rate from 7 percent to 15 percent now.
But Lee stressed the importance of developing new energy sources, saying that the world cannot rely on fossil fuels forever not only because the resources are limited, but also because it worsens climate change.
Green growth has been one of President Lee's trademark policies. It calls for lessening South Korea's dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and other technologies that increase energy efficiency.
Lee believes the strategy will provide South Korea with fresh growth engines for its economy and help the country -- one of the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitters -- reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases amid growing calls to curb global warming.