Fri, Apr 20, 2012 - Page 8 News List


Future bright for solar power

In response to recent events, I would like to update my outlook on Taiwan’s solar industry, as I discussed previously in my letter Why is solar struggling? (Letters, May 12, 2011, page 8).

The recent events include universities complaining about the electricity price increases. Solution: Install solar panels on the roofs of all school buildings.

Install solar panels anywhere you can and reap the benefits during Taiwan’s upcoming long, hot summer, when you are most likely to be cranking the air conditioning.

Don’t like higher gas prices? Turn your scooters off during long waits at traffic lights, as I’ve advocated a dozen times on page 8 of the Taipei Times.

In other letters to Asia’s best daily newspaper, I forecast that oil prices would remain high and never go down, “thanks to” peak oil. I have explained how non-idling scooter commuters can cut their gas bills by 60 percent. I reiterate my prior pledge to buy a bicycle for anyone who cannot otherwise afford one, and I will pay for an oil and spark plug change for a smoky scooter under the auspices of Idle-Free Taipei and the wads of cash we were given by the government in a recent eco-contest.

As an investor, I think it is great that the TAIEX imposes a 7 percent limit on movements in share prices. In my view, this is very wise, as it gives both local and foreign investors time to reconsider their positions. Indeed, this rule effectively prevents high-frequency trading shenanigans, which have played havoc with the stock market in the US, as seen in the “flash crash.”

I believe that Taiwan’s stock exchange is quite robust, where share prices actually reflect the companies’ fundamentals, as opposed to the central planning-related market manipulation seen in the US. In my opinion, the actions of Taiwan’s “financial stability” stock traders have been justified and relatively fair, although I believe that a large portion of the income derived from these trades should be diverted to the treasury to offset our near-catastrophic fiscal deficit, which our president seems intent on increasing continuously through fireworks and one-off musical productions.

Furthermore, I was not surprised when the share prices of two Taiwanese LED companies soared to the 7 percent daily limit and Sino-American Silicon almost hit that mark in one day of trading. This is in spite of the fact that few of these companies will turn a profit this year, which indicates a big disconnect between the market and the real economy.

To local investors, I would caution that the management teams at Taiwan’s solar companies are largely incompetent. They are ignoring profitable opportunities such as shipping panels to companies in now anti-nuclear Japan, especially before the summer heatwave kicks in.

Japan has a barely sustainable national debt problem and widespread electricity shortages could crush its economy if it does not have a fallback plan. I also see profitable opportunities in Haiti, which is still devastated from the earthquake two years ago.

Another example of why the management at Taiwan’s solar firms is incompetent is the shocking fact that only 1 percent of the electricity at Mo-Tech, a leading solar panel supplier, is generated by their own solar panels. If the management at Mo-Tech does not leverage the products they produce to lower their electricity costs, how can investors have faith in the company or in the future of solar power?

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