Mon, Jul 14, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Green energy prices don’t add up

By Gloria Hsu 徐光蓉

On July 1, the Ministry of Economic Affairs launched a trial “green power rate.” Users have to pay an additional NT$1.06 for each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of low-carbon green energy that they purchase. Based on last year’s average electricity price of NT$2.89 per kWh, buyers are paying NT$3.95 for 1kWh, and the total price may be higher if the electricity price goes up.

The ministry’s trial scheme has received little response so far, and only 19 companies and a few households are using it. That being so, some pro-nuclear power activists are mocking the antinuclear power camp, saying that environmental activists are unwilling to pay just a little bit more for green energy despite their calls for the promotion of renewable energy sources.

The ministry says that this volunteer green power trial scheme emulates international green energy sales systems, and that the trial is a market mechanism based on volunteer purchasing.

With the 2009 Renewable Energy Development Act (再生能源發展條例) and the volunteer trial scheme, the government is promoting the development of renewable energy from both supply and demand aspects. However, the trial scheme is not being implemented for the sake of promoting renewable energy, and both framework and pricing are problematic.

Taiwan’s solar panel production has been the world’s second-highest in recent years, and the Renewable Energy Development Act has been in place for four years. Still, the combination of solar and wind power accounts for less than 1 percent of the nation’s total power generation, and solar photovoltaics account for less than 0.15 percent. The nation is ranked 26th in the world in terms of solar photovoltaic production, and it is not only behind advanced countries such as Germany, France and Greece, but also other countries such as South Korea, Thailand and even Ukraine.

Japan launched its Feed-in Tariff Scheme for Renewable Energy in 2012 to encourage the development of renewable energy sources, and the percentage of solar photovoltaics quickly rose to 1.5 percent of its total power generation in just over a year.

Taiwan has the technology, capital and talent, but the development of renewable energy sources has been stagnant due to the government’s belief that nuclear power should play the lead, with renewable energy playing a supporting role.

Taiwan Power Co (Taipower), which monopolizes the market, has more power generation equipment than it needs, but is still expanding despite the low equipment utilization ratio. How can it tolerate the development of renewable energy sources under such circumstances?

As a result, the company creates technical barriers to private power plants and threatens the public from time to time, saying that renewable energy sources are expensive and unstable so as to maintain its near monopoly.

Why, then, is the government launching the green power rate now?

First, it is trying to strengthen the impression that renewable energy sources are expensive.

Second, it is trying to mislead the public into thinking the government values environmental protection.

Third, companies can obtain a certificate from Taipower for purchasing green energy voluntarily, which can enhance their environmentally friendly image and lower the risk of sanctions in the international market, which attaches great importance to environmental protection issues.

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