President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) reiterated that the government is committed to developing forms of renewable energy, on Sunday, stressing that this is an era when people should not give up any energy options, but what he meant was that the government is not so committed to developing renewable energy, and would not give up conventional energy options, especially nuclear energy.
At a summit on energy policy two weeks ago Ma said that “the nation’s renewable energy policy often faces a dilemma,” and “plans to build renewable energy-generating systems on land draw opposition from farmers, while creating sea-based power generation results in objections from fishermen.”
Although Ma told the Youth Policy Forum on Sunday that Taiwan is not in a position to give up any energy options, he spent a lot of time emphasizing the importance of nuclear energy and stressed that the nation should not give up developing nuclear energy.
If Ma is truly concerned about the “dilemma,” he will acknowledge that there are many more people — about 60 to 70 percent of respondents are against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) according to different opinion polls — opposed to nuclear energy than green energy, and those who may seem to be “opposed” to renewable energy facilities may not be truly opposed to them either.
Take for example residents in Yuanli Township (苑裡), Miaoli County, who are opposed to construction of a wind turbine project. They have repeatedly said that they are supportive of green energy projects, such as wind power. However, they are opposed to the decision to erect wind turbines too close to their homes — some as close as only 200m — especially when the decision was made without consulting them.
After a series of protests in the past few years, when the InfraVest Wind Power Group made concessions and agreed to take down the disputed turbines, the opposition just faded out.
Despite the promises, the government is not as fully committed to developing renewable energy as Ma says.
In 2010, with support from the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Pingtung County Government turned many fish farms into solar panel “farms,” hoping to help increase the incomes of fish farmers, while encouraging renewable energy production.
However, fish farmers who happily welcomed the project became angry protesters when the ministry changed its mind and refused to purchase the electricity at the favorable price that it had previously agreed upon. This would not have happened if the government was really committed to developing and encouraging green energy.
On the other hand, when it comes to nuclear energy, the government is sparing no effort to preserve it.
Despite several defects discovered during test operations in the past few years, the government still approved moving ahead to the next stage of construction of the of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant as long as Taiwan Power Co agreed to make improvements.
Facing an overwhelming public demand to cease construction of the plant, the government still decided to complete it and leave the public debating whether it should start operations in the future.
It is true that many countries are still using nuclear power as their primary source of energy, as Ma said. However, the small size of this nation and its high population density make it more dangerous for Taiwan to use nuclear energy, and that is the fundamental difference between Taiwan and other nations that are using nuclear power as their primary source of energy.