Sat, Apr 14, 2007 - Page 12 News List

Taipower warns of power shortages in 2012

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS An EPA committee rejected a Taipower proposal for a new plant, saying the company had not adequately dealt with the issue of pollution

By Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTER

The nation will suffer power shortages as early as 2012 if the government rejects a proposal to build a power plant in Changhua County, state-run Taiwan Power Co (Taipower, 台電) said yesterday.

A committee under the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) on Thursday rejected Taipower's proposal to construct a thermal power plant in Changpin Industrial Park (彰濱工業區), citing environmental concerns. The decision will not be finalized, however, until an environmental evaluation assembly next month.

If the project, along with a proposal to renew a plant in Linkou (林口), Taipei County, and a plant in Keelung, fails to pass the evaluation, "we may need to implement rolling blackouts in 2015," Lee Chuan-lai (李傳來), a public relations official at Taipower, said in a telephone interview.

The proposal would see Taipower, Taiwan's sole electricity distributor, spending NT$50.4 billion (US$1.52 billion) to construct two generating sets at the power plant, which has a capacity of 1.6 million kilowatts, Lee said.

Taipower's total installed capacity is 37 million kilowatts, Lee said.

Power consumption in Taiwan has been growing on average by 4 percent annually, mostly on demand from the electronics industry, whose energy needs have increased more than 10 percent over the past few years, he said.

Director-general of the EPA's comprehensive planning department Edward Huang (黃光輝) said yesterday that the preliminary meeting of the second-phase Environmental Assessment Review reached a resolution on Thursday calling for the suspension of the project.

"They [meeting members] rejected the development project because they felt the company had not adequately addressed issues related to the emission of carbon dioxide and the impact on the environment near the thermal power plant," Huang said.

He added, however, that an Environmental Review Assembly could be convened next month. Should the members of the assembly accept the resolution, the company is entitled to propose an alternate plan.

The plant was scheduled to start providing electricity in 2012. Without the plant, reserve capacity will fall to 13.9 percent or 9.1 percent as of July 2013, Lee said.

Standard reserve capacity is 16 percent. In addition to causing blackouts, the power shortage would also drive up electricity prices and thus impact local industries and consumers, he said.

"We hope to reach a balance between environment and economic development and to provide affordable electricity," Lee said.

Taiwan is heavily dependent on fossil fuels for power, which generates about 76 percent of electricity, Lee said. Nuclear power generates 20 percent of electricity, hydraulic power generates 2 percent, and renewable power makes up 2 percent, Lee said.

The government has set a goal of raising the percentage of renewable energy to 10 percent by 2010.

But power derived from fossil fuels costs Taipower dearly. For the first three months this year, Taipower lost NT$3.5 billion because of the soaring costs of imported coal and natural gas, and is expected to see the loss widen to NT$32.5 billion by the end of the year, Lee said.

The rejection of the thermal power plant is understandable, given rising concerns about global warming, Lee said, adding that certain factors make renewable energy difficult in Taiwan.

For example, Taiwan's windy season falls in the autumn and winter, but wind power cannot be stored to supply electricity during the summer, when electricity consumption peaks, Lee said.

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