Sat, Mar 03, 2012 - Page 8 News List

Taipower must not put eggs in one basket

By Lu Chan-nan 盧展南

It has been reported that funding for the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), being constructed by Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) will be increased again and that the date for it to enter commercial operation could be delayed by a further 39 months, until 2016, or maybe even 2019. It also looks unlikely that the Jinshan Nuclear Power Plant, in Shihmen District (石門), or the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant, in Wanli (萬里), both in New Taipei City, will be closed down ahead of schedule.

Before the Jinshan and Guosheng plants are closed, the impact of not having the fourth plant online will be minimal. However, if it is not up and running when these plants are taken offline as planned, at the beginning of 2019, the impact will be felt immediately and will become greater with each passing year, as demand for electricity increases.

During peak hours, high demand in northern Taiwan means a large amount of electricity has to be transmitted from central and southern Taiwan. The long distances involved in the transmission lowers the safety of the electricity supply and raises the risk of usage restrictions.

If Taipower does not come up with a solution to the problem in the next few years and develop other power sources or ways to control demand, it will have a tough time maintaining the safety of the supply.

Every four to six years, Taipower produces a master plan for electricity transmission, involving construction work that costs tens to hundreds of billions of New Taiwan dollars. Such plans benefit the development of domestic industry and employment, which need to make their own projections about power supply and demand.

However, these infrastructure projects are not well received by the public. In order to meet demand for short-term peaks, a lot of money and time has been spent on building additional power plants, transmission lines and transformers. However, urban transmission and distribution grids are still heavily loaded.

We need to know exactly how much electricity Taiwan needs. In the absence of economic supply and demand equilibrium theory, excessive demand cannot be handled no matter how much power-generating infrastructure is built. It will only cause even more environmental destruction and the public will have to pay an even higher price for electricity.

At the end of last year, the government convened a forum on smart grid development, and it appeared officials intended to create a better environment for smart grid providers, given the future supply challenges. Unfortunately, Taipower did not explain in detail the difficulties and challenges it is facing.

As lawmaking and policy cannot be coordinated and the upper management at Taipower has no professional engineering staff capable of finding creative solutions to problems, Taiwan’s electricity supply problems will continue. The company must take a more active role and spend money where it counts to solve future problems with the joint participation of smart grid providers and electricity users.

Judging by the administration’s current actions, officials must believe Taiwan has abundant electricity supply for present and future needs. If the administration fails to see the crux of the problem, instead concentrating on setting new records for annual electricity usage instead of managing demand and educating the public in how to handle electricity shortages or power cuts, both the government and the public will suffer when these begin to happen.

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