Seoul is subsidizing energy efficiency upgrades in buildings, encouraging residents and businesses to retrofit their homes and workplaces.

Seoul has unveiled a comprehensive program to retrofit its buildings, providing generous financial incentives and free consultation services to encourage all citizens and businesses to participate. To reduce the financial burden and encourage homeowners, tenants, building owners, and businesses to get involved, the city offers 8-year loans that cover all retrofit expenses at an ultra-low interest rate of 1.75%, lowered from the initial 3%. These incentives are clearly paying off, as increasing the loan coverage from 80% to 100% of retrofit costs sparked a huge increase in loan applications, from $4.4 million in 2012 to $20.7 million in 2014.

1.3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided by 2020

Cities100 – 2015

Seoul’s city government has also deployed “energy consultants,” who make house calls to small- and medium-sized commercial buildings and homes, to provide no-cost energy efficiency consultation services. By the end of 2014, 45,000 buildings had already received the service. The project aims to enhance energy efficiency in 90,000, or 20%, of outdated buildings that are more than 20 years old by 2018. To date, Seoul’s retrofit program has improved energy efficiency in 72,000 buildings.

The challenge

As buildings are responsible for 56% of Seoul’s total energy consumption, the retrofit program is effective in curbing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing energy demand. In addition to encouraging citizens and businesses to act, the city is also making impressive strides with its own facilities by, for instance, replacing conventional lights in all 243 subway stations with LEDs.


Economic In the first phase of the project, Seoul will save 57 GWh of electricity and $6.6 million in electricity expenses annually, allowing for a full recovery of the investment within seven years.

Environmental The equivalent of 1.04 million tons of oil is expected to be reduced in total in 90,000 buildings by 2018 through energy efficiency upgrades.

Social Energy efficiency upgrades in 59 municipal social welfare facilities save the equivalent of 1,426 tons of oil each year, and the saved energy expenses are reallocated to improve welfare services.

About Seoul

Seoul is the capital and largest metropolis of the Republic of Korea (commonly known as South Korea). Seoul is the world’s 16th largest city and houses about half of the country’s population of 51.44 million people with 678,102 international residents. Today, Seoul is considered a leading and rising global city, resulting from an economic boom called the Miracle on the Han River which transformed it to the world’s 4th largest metropolitan economy with a GDP of US$845.9 billion in 2014.

Global Goals addressed