Mon, Apr 04, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Embracing a non-nuclear future

By Winston Dang 陳重信

On March 24, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential primary candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) announced her support for an energy policy that would turn Taiwan into a “nuclear-free homeland” by 2025.

For those politicians who think nuclear reactors are so safe that we can cuddle them while we sleep, Tsai’s no-nukes policy is just as scary as any earthquake or nuclear emergency. These politicians keep saying that construction on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant cannot be halted, because the cost of doing so would be more than NT$270 billion (US$9.23 billion). They warn that the price of electricity would go up and that the energy supply for Taiwan’s industrial sector would be a third short of what is needed — but this figure is wrong.

According to data released by the Bureau of Energy (能源局) in December 2009, nuclear plants only contribute 8.7 percent of Taiwan’s total power supply, not much more than liquefied natural gas at 8.4 percent. If the proportion of Taiwan’s total electricity generation derived from renewable sources could be raised from the present 4 percent to 25 percent or more by 2025, there is no reason why Tsai’s plan to phase out nuclear power by that date could not be achieved. Her proposal is in tune with the New Apollo Project proposed by the US Apollo Alliance, which aims to produce 25 percent of that country’s power from renewable sources by 2025. It is quite possible that Taiwan could achieve the same goal that US President Barack Obama endorsed two years ago — to generate 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050. If the US can do it, so can Taiwan.

Energy policy is a matter of supply and demand. In February, 2008, I led a tour group on a visit to Beckerich, a small agricultural town in western Luxembourg that has just 2,000 residents. The town uses cow and horse manure blended with sawdust to produce methane through anaerobic digestion, and it has improved electricity -transmission efficiency to more than 95 percent. In addition, every home has solar panels on the roof that provide power for lighting and heating — even in winter. The town has achieved an impressive 87 percent self-sufficiency in energy. The scheme solves the problem of manure disposal by turning it into a cheap source of bioenergy. As a bonus, many tourists visit Beckerich to learn about its environmentally friendly innovations.

In 1985, the Danish parliament passed a resolution that nuclear power plants would not be built in the country. Danish Minister for Climate and Energy Connie Hedegaard is a strong advocate of energy efficiency and sustainable energy. By raising the price of gasoline and imposing a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, Denmark has taken energy-saving policy to the household level.

While Denmark’s energy consumption has remained flat, its economy has grown at a respectable rate (GDP grew by 38.2 percent from 1990 to last year) and it has relatively low unemployment at a bit more than 4 percent.

In 2007, between 16 percent and 18 percent of Denmark’s energy came from solar and wind power, and that proportion is rising. Notably, Denmark has solved the problem of effluent produced by its 25 million pigs by using it to generate electricity and produce organic fertilizer.

There is no reason why the same could not be done in Taiwan, with its 6 million to 7 million pigs. People might think of effluent and dung from pigs, cows and horses as being without value, but put in the right place and used in the right way they become precious energy resources.

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