In this Feb. 2, 2019, photo, North Koreans men walk with the background of the West Sea Barrage in Nampo, North Korea. North Korea is exploring two ambitious alternative energy sources, tidal power and the production of coal-based synthetic fuels, that could greatly improve its standard of living while reducing its reliance on oil imports and vulnerability to sanctions. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
camera (The Associated Press) In this Feb. 2, 2019, photo, North Koreans men walk with the background of the West Sea Barrage in Nampo, North Korea. North Korea is exploring two ambitious alternative energy sources, tidal power and the production of coal-based synthetic fuels, that could greatly improve its standard of living while reducing its reliance on oil imports and vulnerability to sanctions. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Power-strapped North Korea is exploring ambitious alternative energy sources — tidal power and coal-based synthetic fuels — that could greatly improve living standards and reduce its reliance on oil imports and vulnerability to sanctions.

Finding a lasting energy source that isn't vulnerable to sanctions has long been a top priority for North Korean officials. Leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year's address to call on the country to "radically increase the production of electricity" and singled out the coal-mining industry as a "primary front in developing the self-supporting economy."

Since further development of atomic energy is unlikely anytime soon, the country is developing technology to "gasify" coal into substitute motor fuels. It also is looking into using sea barriers with electricity-generating turbines to harness the power of the tides.