Tue, Jan 03, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Lack of ‘green’ energy is a threat

By Chao Wen-heng 趙文衡

Department heads from Apple Inc’s environmental policy office recently visited the Ministry of Economic Affairs to convey the company’s desire that its Taiwanese suppliers switch to 100 percent renewable energy sources.

This bombshell request from Apple can be traced back to its announcement in September last year that it was joining the RE100 — an important international initiative on renewable energy. Corporations that join the RE100 commit themselves to getting all the electricity for their global operations from renewable sources.

Alongside Apple, major international corporations that have joined the initiative include Alphabet Inc (Google), HP Inc, Microsoft Corp, Facebook Inc, IKEA, Wal-Mart Stores Inc, BMW AG, General Motors Co, Nike Inc and Royal Philips NV. Two-thirds of Fortune 100 companies have already pledged to switch over to 100 percent renewable energy.

The Apple executives said that they would not stop placing orders with excellent Taiwanese manufacturers, such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), if they do not manage to use 100 percent renewable energy. However, some overseas news media have reported that if Apple’s suppliers do not pledge to adopt renewable energy, the US firm might no longer be able to work with them.

Whether that is true or not, the question of whether a supplier can achieve 100 percent use of “green” energy is definitely becoming an important factor for Apple and other big corporations when they decide where to place their orders. Taiwanese manufacturers cannot afford to take any chances. They must keep up with this international trend if they are to survive.

Apple’s Chinese suppliers, which compete with those in Taiwan, achieved the requirement of 100 percent renewable energy use some time ago, while Taiwan’s development of “green” energy has hardly got off the ground. This gives Chinese manufacturers an advantage when major international corporations choose their suppliers.

Taiwan’s supply of “green” energy is far from adequate. At present, it only accounts for 4 percent of the nation’s total electricity supply. TSMC alone uses 3 percent of all the nation’s electricity, which is equal to the lion’s share of the nation’s “green energy.”

A large majority of Taiwanese manufacturers export at least some of their products, with the manufacturing sector consuming 53 percent of the nation’s electricity. Assuming all Taiwanese manufacturers were to face demands from major global corporations and other importers that they use 100 percent “green” energy, that means 53 percent of the nation’s power supply would have to come from renewables. That is much higher than the government’s target of 20 percent renewable energy by 2025 and major international corporations are probably not prepared to wait that long anyway.

Taiwan’s lack of “green” energy could become a big threat to its economic development. The nation’s natural resources will probably not allow it to achieve 53 percent renewable energy under its existing development model. Apart from cutting power consumption, a still more important task would be to move as quickly as possible to obtain reliable “green” energy supplies.

Businesses do not have to wait for the government to build nationwide “green” energy infrastructure. They can start planning now to build their own power plants and solar energy grids, or cooperate with science parks to build “green” energy facilities. The government must also close the gap by actively developing new sources of “green” energy, such as geothermal and tidal.

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