Mon, Oct 24, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan’s green shift

The nation has well-tested industrial development models involving the promotion of new industries, which could be applied to streamlining the energy system

By Hu Mei-chih and John A. Mathews  /  Contributing reporters

Wind turbines are pictured in Changhua last month.

Photo: Chang tsong-chiu

Last week the Executive Yuan announced measures that would initiate the breakup of Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower, 台電) monopoly in the name of enhancing the generation of green power. The government is making good on its election commitment to amend the Electricity Act (電業法) by allowing renewable energy companies to sell direct to the grid, without having to use Taipower as an intermediary. This move is viewed as a direct means of encouraging the growth of green power in Taiwan.

Indeed, there seems to be a genuine green shift underway. The government announced its firm intention of reaching a target of 20 gigawatts (GW) of solar power to be online by 2025 — more than enough to compensate for nuclear power plants anticipated to be taken offline by then. Vice President Chen Chien-Jen (陳建仁) stated that this goal would call for investment of NT$1.2 trillion (US$38 billion) — bringing Taiwan abreast of world leaders in green energy.

And Taipower itself launched a new offshore wind power company, with a goal of building its first offshore power plant rated at 110 megawatts (MW) by 2020, with a budget of NT$19.5 billion.

How times have changed.

Three years ago, we published an article, “China key to Taiwan energy crisis (page 8 of Taipei Times, Apr. 15, 2013). At the time, Taiwan was embroiled in endless debates over its commitment to nuclear power, a commitment that precluded a shift to more secure renewable energy sources. We argued that Taiwan’s obsession with nuclear power obscured other energy options. In particular, we argued that the country could extend its great successes in IT, semiconductors and flat panel displays to the next great technological challenge, namely renewable energy. We pointed to the example of China and its green energy strategy which is gradually replacing its black, fossil fueled strategy, thereby enhancing China’s energy security as well as building renewable energy industries as export platforms for the future.

NEW GREEN ENERGY POLICY

Three years on, the situation in Taiwan is completely different. The transfer of power from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) at both the executive and legislative level in January has led to a new green energy strategy. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) is taking Taiwan in a new energy direction, headlined by a commitment for Taiwan to be nuclear-free by 2025. That opens the way to an alternative energy strategy, now focused on building Taiwan’s strength in solar photovoltaic (PV) and offshore wind power.

New targets like the one just announced for solar power in 2025 are providing the investment certainty that the previous nuclear preoccupations had denied. The government has been backing its energy targets with talk of total investment of NT$1.5 trillion, induced initially by government expenditure and then followed by foreign capital and domestic investment. As the power monopoly, and with a nod to the new government policy, Taipower has already announced an investment target of NT$400 billion in the development of renewable energy (mainly in solar and wind power) up to 2025. So things are on the move on the energy front in Taiwan.

NUCLEAR MORATORIUM

The main initiative since the election has been the announced moratorium on nuclear power and a commitment to phase it out completely by 2025. Taiwan has three nuclear power sites in operation, with a total capacity of 5.1GW. A fourth nuclear power plant was completed last year, but it was mothballed as soon as the construction was finished due to social pressure for a nuclear-free homeland.

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