Tue, Jul 08, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Renewable energy is green for go

By Chen Wen-ching 陳文卿

Renewable energy has found itself under the microscope in the debate about the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. The president and the premier have both said that renewable energy must be one of their nation's top priorities. The Legislative Yuan also passed a statute concerning the development of renewable energy, which makes us feel that we can look toward the goal of producing more than 10 percent of total domestic power from renewable sources by 2020.

In fact, the development of renewable energy is a common goal worldwide, mainly due to fears over global warming. We have no choice but to pay special attention to the issues of environmental protection and carbon-dioxide control as well as look for alternative sources of energy supply. The market for renewable energy facilities has therefore flourished in recent years.

Take the wind turbine generator for example. Since 1995, the global capacity of power generation from wind-power sources has increased five-fold. In the last seven years, the annual growth rate in the setup of solar-energy facilities has reached as high as 35 percent. In Denmark, power generation from wind-power sources contributes 18 percent of the country's total power supply. Denmark has by far the highest percentage of energy supply generated from wind power sources in the world.

In other words, whether the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will continue or not, the development of renewable energy is a policy that we will not regret pursuing. It is in accord with the international trend of sustainable development. For this reason, we should plan it outside the framework of political thinking.

Although the market opportunities for renewable energy look promising at home and abroad, it is a pity that the market for renewable energy will probably continue to be monopolized by a few major international manufacturers. So, the question before us is, where can domestic manufacturers find their opportunities?

At present, the global market for wind turbine generators is monopolized by Germany, Denmark, Spain and the US, with Germany and Denmark sharing 40 percent of the global market. For solar-energy generators, Japan occupies more than 30 percent of the market. Even if we subsidize various industries to encourage renewable-energy use, we would be in a disadvantageous position because most of the commercial profits would be absorbed by foreign manufacturers.

One real-life example is our country's three large wind power plants, whose generator units came from Denmark and Germany. We built more than 20 large garbage incinerators that can recycle energy resources from waste materials, but the bids for the multi-billion-NT dollar plant construction projects were won by European and Japanese manufacturers and our domestic manufacturers could only make minor profits from labor-intensive construction activities.

There were no abuses or corrupt practices involved, but we had to give up profit-making opportunities because of our inferior position in technology and experience. Therefore, when we promote the use of renewable energy, I believe it is equally important to promote the autonomy of our domestic manufacturers in providing renewable energy facilities and equipment.

In the fast-growing global market of renewable energy, our domestic manufacturers definitely have excellent conditions and opportunities to develop wind turbines and resource application of solar energy and waste materials, because our industrial foundation of electric machinery is quite solid. A traditional industry such as electric machinery has become domestically saturated and has therefore tended to move abroad.

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