Sat, Dec 13, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan lags in renewable energy

By Gloria Hsu 徐光蓉

On Dec. 1, signatory nations to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change embarked upon what is to be a two-week round of intensive discussions at the Conference of the Parties meeting in Lima to lay the foundation for a new, universal climate change agreement in Paris next year. The aim is to keep the average global temperature increase below 2?C.

The continuous expansion of human activity, with the high levels of consumption of fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and deforestation to make way for land for cultivating crops and grazing cattle, is having an impact on the climate. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if the target is to limit the global temperature increase below 2?C, cumulative anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions cannot exceed 3.2 trillion tonnes.

Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have already been responsible for the release of about 2 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide. How long will it be before we use up the remaining just more than 1 trillion tonnes?

In 2010, global emissions amounted to 49 billion tonnes and if this number does not stop increasing year-on-year, we have less than 30 years. By 2040, we will have reached the limit. What happens after that?

Climate change has been caused by the use of the Earth’s resources by humans, but these resources are indispensable for all political, economic and social activity.

If we are not to use coal, oil or natural gas, then what can we use? Nuclear power advocates say they have the answer, but will nuclear power fit the bill? Setting aside for the time being that nuclear power is unsafe and the problem of how to process nuclear waste, of the 32 countries that have nuclear capability in the world, not a single one relies on maintaining nuclear power alone.

If Taiwan is to rely on nuclear power alone, it will need to build plants with more than six times the current capacity. Also, since nuclear power plants cannot be started and stopped as needed, there is no way to manage the differences in peak and off-peak periods, and they of course cannot deal with current transportation requirements.

The government has shown that it has little inclination to promote renewable energy; a position clearly at odds with the international trend.

Renewable energy has only taken off over the past 10 or so years, and yet the total installed capacity already exceeds that of nuclear power, which has been in commercial use for six decades. Ten years ago, 80 percent of the new power generation facilities in EU countries were coal-fired or natural gas powered, but within the last six years, more than half of the newly installed facilities are renewable energy sources. Last year, this proportion increased to 70 percent.

Wind power accounts for more than 30 percent of Denmark’s power generation and 20 percent of Spain’s, while solar energy accounts for 8 percent of Italy’s. Meanwhile, 20 million Germans live in communities powered entirely by renewable energy sources, and about 6.5 million people worldwide are employed either directly or indirectly in renewable energy-related industries.

In 2005, the US, which has withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol, passed the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The RFS stipulates the amount of bioethanol that is to be used in transportation fuel annually. Last year, it was up to 10 percent. In June, the US government announced that it would reduce the amount of carbon emissions from power plants by 30 percent compared with 2005 levels by the year 2030.

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