Mon, Jun 04, 2018 - Page 6 News List

EDITORIAL: Citizen power could avoid blackouts

Over the past month, residents of Taipei, New Taipei City and Miaoli County have experienced a dozen electricity interruptions, which Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) attributed to faulty distribution feeders — the power lines that transmit electricity from substations to transformers.

The higher number of unexpected interruptions has had nothing to do with Taipower’s electricity supply, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said, adding that the utility suspected aging equipment or hot weather.

Studies have shown that weather, equipment failure and contact from foreign objects can cause blackouts. However, it is rare to have this many blackouts in late May and early June, and the public already fears potential power shortages this summer, as the weather will only get hotter and demand for electricity will mount.

Regardless of what was behind the power interruptions, Taipower staff must promptly conduct a thorough check of substations, feeders and transformers, despite the scorching weather outside.

At a time when Taiwan has yet to see any substantial rainfall during what should be the annual “plum rain” season, and some areas are implementing rationing due to water shortages, the government needs to have measures ready to prevent or mitigate the effect on households, business and industry.

Most importantly, the government should let people know the reality they are facing, so that energy conservation can become a part of the public consciousness, because it is the easiest and fastest way to solve the nation’s power supply issue.

As for a planned policy initiative to encourage heavy industrial and commercial users to consume less electricity, the government should understand the importance of ensuring the least possible pushback from businesses, while encouraging them to conserve more energy.

The government should not rewrite the regulations to punish companies just because it could not generate sufficient energy.

Apart from promoting the development of offshore wind farms and the construction of rooftop and ground-mounted solar power systems, the government should scale up incentives for the public to participate in small-scale renewable energy generation and reduce their carbon footprint. Nearly half of the renewable energy plants in Germany are owned and operated by ordinary citizens.

The ministry’s earmarking of between NT$70 million and NT$100 million (US$2.34 million and US$3.35 million) in subsidies this year for promoting so-called “citizen-run power plants” is a good start.

Under the ministry’s measures, people whose proposals gain ministry approval can band together as cooperatives, foundations, social organizations or Aboriginal groups and obtain government aid for investing in renewable energy sources — including solar, biomass, geothermal, wind and hydro — in rural regions or areas where the power supply is insufficient. The project aims to assist local communities in accessing renewable energy when they do not have the capacity to generate it themselves. It would also distribute energy resources as an alternative or addition to the traditional electric power grid.

Through their initial investment, the banded citizens could get access to the electricity generated. Still, the government must provide more complementary measures to ensure the effectiveness of the program, while informing people of the potential financial risks involved.

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