In November last year, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) expressed his agreement with ideas put forward by the Crazy About Green Power Alliance and said that the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) could supply people who want “green electricity” with energy from renewable resources. Environmentalists are nice people who love organic food and always carry their own shopping bags and eating utensils, but the real need for green electricity in Taiwan comes not from green-minded individuals, but from the electronics industry. If Taiwan’s electronics manufacturing sector, which produces US$70 billion of goods each year, cannot get green electricity, it will become uncompetitive over the next few years.
One of Taiwan’s most pressing problems is its over-reliance on coal to fire its power stations. If the government goes on promoting green energy as feebly as it currently does, then the electronics sector that Taiwan has spent decades fostering will fizzle out. Even if restrictions on green electricity are relaxed straight away, it will still not be possible within the foreseeable future to reduce the international competition that our electronics industry faces over its high carbon emissions.
In line with what Ma said in November, the ministry’s Bureau of Energy has held three symposiums about green electricity. The Taiwanese electronics industry’s carbon emissions factor is about 50 percent more than those of its counterparts in countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore. Taiwan’s electronics manufacturers reckon that they are better at saving energy than these overseas competitors, but they do much worse in terms of the carbon emissions from the electricity they use, so they lose out badly in the overall score.
Manufacturers attending the series of symposiums on renewable energy sources have expressed great interest in buying green electricity. However, when they heard about the Bureau of Energy’s plan to greatly and unreasonably inflate the price of green electricity, they could only shake their heads and sigh in disappointment.
Some of them said they had thought the government could cut carbon emissions by promoting nuclear energy, but that since the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, following the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11 last year, and coupled with the fact that Taiwan’s Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮) New Taipei City (新北市) remains unfinished after 15 years under construction, they no longer have any faith in nuclear power.
The electronics sector is going to be a victim of the policy followed by the government and the state-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), of prioritizing nuclear energy and sidelining green electricity. At the beginning of this year, the EU started levying a carbon tax on aircraft flying international routes, a move that has provoked a strong backlash from US and Chinese airlines.
There is an inevitable trend among the world’s main industrialized countries toward levying cross-border carbon taxes aimed at protecting their own manufacturing industries and providing more job opportunities. These countries’ strategy is to impose non-tariff trade barriers in the name of environmental protection and all links in the global supply chain are beginning to feel the pressure.