Fri, Apr 13, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Schools worry about electric bills

HELP WANTED:Several universities are calling on education authorities to negotiate with Taipower or the Ministry of Economic Affairs on their behalf for discounted rates

By Chen Yi-ching and Lin Hsiao-yun  /  Staff Reporters

With electricity prices set to rise, universities are looking at paying tens of millions of dollars more for electricity and are calling on the Ministry of Education to negotiate a better deal for them.

National Taiwan University (NTU) said it spent NT$410 million (US$13.8 million) last year on electricity alone and that since it signed on with Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) as a large-quantity user, it would see a bill as high as NT$545 million following the hike in electricity prices.

Several universities have already adopted plans to reduce energy costs, but administrators fear that such efforts could be undermined by the latest rate increase.

National Taiwan University’s primary secretary, Chang Pei-zen (張培仁), said that in the face of the electricity price increases, the institution plans to install more energy-efficient lights, gradually replace energy-intensive equipment, install warning systems for electricity use spikages and ban the use of air conditioners if room temperatures are lower than 28°C.

The school’s administration says raising tuition fees — within an acceptable range — to address its financial difficulties is also a possibility, Chang said.

National Cheng Kung University said it expected a 20 percent, or about NT$50 million, increase in its electricity bill from last year’s, which was NT$180 million.

Although its energy conservation efforts resulted in an NT$8 million decrease in its electricity bill last year, the newly announced rate increase would hurt its finances, the school said.

“We urge the ministry to allocate subsidies or negotiate with Taipower or the Ministry of Economic Affairs to either not raise electricity prices for universities or provide some discount,” National Cheng Kung University said.

Huang Ching-tung (黃慶東), dean of National Taiwan University of Science and Technology’s general affairs office, said the school’s annual electricity bill was about NT$7 million, adding that based on prices quoted by the media, it would probably see a NT$1.7 million to NT$2 million increase in its annual electricity bill.

Huang said the school had already implemented measures to cut back on electricity usage.

“We use only every other street light and dim one light in the halls for every three lit. And air conditioners are turned off once the room temperature is less than 25°C,” Huang said.

However, with the rate hike, Huang said the university would be forced to tighten its belt as well as adjust the rates for student dormitory “air conditioner cash cards.”

National Taipei University of Technology general affairs office dean Duann Yeh-fang (段葉芳) said every year was hard, but the universities still had to make do.

“We cannot just leave out a chunk of the students’ education,” Duann said.

Despite promoting energy-friendly policies, its annual electricity bill was NT$6 million and would go up NT$1 million after the price hike, the school said.

“We hope electricity prices for educational units can be given discounted and flexible rates, since lights and research equipment have to be supplied,” the school said.

Da Yeh University plans to help students save money by planning more public transport on campus, calling for all buses within a 5km radius from the university gates to be free, setting up more bus stops and having buses running every 30 minutes.

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