Brightly colored and clear as day, a recently released road map for South Korea’s smart grid sends an unmistakable message: We’re ready -- are you?

The country’s Ministry of Knowledge Economy’s two-page report hits all the high points (and garners plenty of style points) in its plan for smart grid deployment through 2030, with hard targets for everything from advanced metering infrastructure to PHEV quick-charging stations and microgrid communications.

“This presentation is on par or better than anything I’ve seen from a progressive utility in the U.S.,” said David J. Leeds, a smart-grid analyst with GTM Research. “They clearly intend to be one of the first nations to have a fully integrated smart grid in place.”

South Korea sees energy and energy efficiency as one of its next big export markets. Samsung has laid plans to become the world’s largest solar provider by 2015 from a base in 2009 of effectively zero. The company recently agreed to build $1.6 billion worth of factories and other facilities in Ontario, Canada. Both LG and Samsung have also unfurled initiatives to reduce power consumption in their upscale household appliances.

Despite its strong foray into solar on the business side, South Korea set a relatively modest goal for renewable energy as a country -- 11 percent in 2030 -- yet it expects nearly one-third of households to be energy self-sufficient by the same date.

Other targets are far more ambitious. The road map calls for a 100 percent AMI penetration by 2020 and to hit 5.6 percent penetration in 2010. But the rollout doesn’t stop at smart meters.

South Korea also expects to expand from 500,000 PHEVs in 2012 to nearly 2.5 million by 2030, with the capacity for vehicle-to-grid transmission. Who is going to pay for all that? According to the road map, approximately $6.2 billion ($7 trillion won) will get spent on technology development and $18 billion will go into building infrastructure. 

The SK Group, which included SK Energy, SK Telecom and SK Networks, is expected to be a major player in developing the grid, according to The Korea Times. SK Telecom is already partnered with Samsung on a pilot project on the island of Jeju to test multiple technologies.

South Korea is at an advantage in that the country of 48 million depends on just one energy utility, KEPCO. Another major leg up is the country’s broadband. After the Asian financial crisis of 1998, South Korea embarked on an ambitious plan to become a worldwide leader in broadband. It worked. The country became an epicenter for online gaming development, social networking and other broadband services, and its communications backbone is one of the most robust in the world.

“[With this road map] South Korea is saying look, this is what smart grid is and we’ve got the existing knowledge base to be tech leaders here," says Leeds.  He further points out, or rather, cautions, that "South Korea imports essentially all of its energy, so there is a necessity there that may drive Korea to develop next-generation smart grid technologies ahead of the pack."