Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Taipower to build four more coal power plants

BREATHING EASIER? Amid protests from citizens and environmentalists, the government plans to halt the expansion of nuclear energy in favor of coal power


Taiwan plans to boost the use of coal in power generators as the government halts approval for nuclear power plants on safety concern, a government official said.

The installed capacity of coal-fired plants may increase 65 percent to 18,497 megawatts in 2014 from 11,197 megawatts currently, according to a report by state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電).

Taiwan wants to eventually end the use of nuclear energy as environmentalists protest against the construction of the latest plant. In Japan, an accident at Kansai Electric Power Co's nuclear reactor killed five people in August while Tokyo Electric Power Co halted a reactor this month after a radioactive power leak.

"For base-load power plants, it is more appropriate to use coal," Yeh Huey-ching (葉惠青), director-general of the Bureau of Energy, said in an interview yesterday. The government is sticking to its goal to eventually make Taiwan "nuclear free," he said.

Taiwan has three operating nuclear power plants, accounting for 15 percent of the nation's installed generation capacity as of October. State-controlled Taipower will complete the fourth plant in 2007. The government has said the nation won't build another nuclear plant after the fourth.

Local residents and environmentalists protested construction of the fourth nuclear power plant, prompting the Cabinet to suspend the project in October 2000. Taipower restarted the project in early 2001 after the nation's constitutional court said the government decision was invalid because lawmakers were not consulted.

Taipower is building four coal-fired generators and plans to add another seven with a total installed capacity of 8,300 megawatts, according to a report by the company.

The government owns 97 percent of Taipower, which generates about 80 percent of the electricity the nation uses and monopolizes transmission.

Coal-fueled plants are expected to account for 36 percent of Taiwan's total installed capacity in 2014, up from 32 percent in October, according to the report and Taipower's Web site.

The company bought 23.2 million tonnes of coal last year and expects the amount to increase by about 30 percent in the next 10 years, said Lee Chuan-lai (李傳來), a company spokesman.

Last year, Taipower bought 64 percent of its coal from Indonesia, 18 percent from China, and 14 percent from Australia, Lee said.

The government also encourages use of renewable energy, including wind power, solar energy and biomass, and expects these sources to account for 10 percent of generation capacity in 2010, up from 4.5 percent, Yeh said.

"The focus will be on wind power," Yeh said.

Taipower and private companies are building wind farms with a capacity of between 600 megawatts and 700 megawatts, and another 700 megawatts to 800 megawatts being planned, he said.

Taiwan's power plants have the capacity to generate 34,809 megawatts of electricity as of October.

The government also plans to set up several "solar cities," or neighborhoods using solar power, Yeh said.

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