Coal is the chief fuel mined, with recoverable reserves estimated at 86 million tons in 2000 and production totaling 4.6 million tons in the same year. Most of the coal is low-quality anthracite, used mainly for home cooking and heating; imports of higher-grade coal are required for industry.
In 2000, crude oil provided 56% of all primary energy consumed, up from 9.4% in 1962, and coal, 20%. Nuclear energy, natural gas, and hydroelectricity provided the rest. Oil consumption totaled 2.1 million barrels per day in 2000, all of it imported. The Number 3 reactor at the Ulchin power plant went online in 1998, and the Number 4 reactor launched operations a year later. Units 5 and 6 are expected to be finished in 2004 and 2005. Since the 1960s, the ROK's oil sector has been heavily regulated as a means of providing manufacturers with inexpensive energy. Prices are controlled and market entry is restricted. Following the Asian economic crisis of 1997–1998, the ROK began to loosen controls over oil pricing, importing, and the export of refined petroleum products. In 1998 the refining industry was fully deregulated. Plans for the future call for a deemphasis on oil and promotion of atomic energy, coal, and hydroelectricity as energy sources, together with importation of liquefied natural gas from Indonesia and crude oil from the United States.
In 2001, the ROK had an installed electrical generating capacity of 52 million kW, up from 9.8 million kW in 1981. The output of electricity in 2000 totaled 273.6 billion kWh, of which 60.6% was from fossil fuels, 1.5% from hydropower, 37.9% from nuclear power, and a negligible amount from other renewable sources. Industry accounts for about two-thirds of the electricity consumed. Electricity demand is projected to rise 3.4% per year on average through 2015.