Sun, Apr 15, 2012 - Page 3 News List

Local governments seek savings before rate hikes

COMPROMISING SAFETY:The higher electricity prices that take effect on May 15 will force many counties and remote townships to cut back, and imperil road users

By Tsai Meng-shang, Huang Mei-chu and Chang Tsun-wei  /  Staff Reporters

Following the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ announcement on Thursday of a drastic increase in electricity rates, set to take effect next month, several counties and remote townships have been forced to develop countermeasures to cut down on electricity costs.

From May 15, household electricity rates in Taiwan are due to increase by an average 16.9 percent, commercial electricity rates by 30 percent and industrial rates by 35 percent.

Under the present price structure, the Hsinchu County Government, along with its subsidiary offices, pays an average of NT$120 million (US$4 million) in power bills each year, while the new price schedule is likely to add NT$20 million to that, it said.

Hsinchu County’s General Development Department Director Ho Tsai-chun (何采純) said all subagencies of the county government would meet on April 27 to discuss possible countermeasures to the price hikes. In the meantime, he urged government officials to turn off unnecessary lights and computers to save electricity.

Tai Ching-kun (戴清坤), director of Taitung County’s General Affairs Office, said the Taitung County Government had made every possible effort in recent years to save electricity, including installing all lighting fixtures with energy-saving bulbs, to bring down an electricity bill of about NT$6.18 million per year.

To cope with the latest price hikes, Tai said the county government would urge officials to switch off water dispensers during off-work hours or holidays, because of the machines’ high power consumption, and would mandate all public computers to be set to power-saving mode.

A number of remote townships have also been thinking hard about how to counter the price hikes.

Yun Tien-pao (雲天寶) , mayor of Hsinchu County’s Jianshih Township (尖石), said he has demanded that officials turn off lights and computers during lunch breaks, while Wufong Township (五峰) Mayor Yeh Hsien-min (葉賢民) said he would wait until the new rate scheme became effective before making evaluations and laying out plans.

Hu Tien-jung (胡典榮), mayor of Yanping Township (延平) in Taitung County, said the office would cope with the price hikes by initially reducing the number of streetlights on less hazardous road sections at night, then request a supplementary budget.

In Yunlin County, the Sihhu Township Office (四湖) is considering buying energy-saving light bulbs or solar streetlamps to replace their lights.

The Shueilin Township Office (水林), Yunlin County, advised the central government to allocate special funds to subsidize all township offices’ installment of LED lighting. It added that the office would not reduce streetlamp lighting for safety reasons, and that it would wait until July or August to turn on air conditioners. With self-deprecating humor, officials from the township office added that they might resort to using lanterns if it was deemed necessary.

Metropolitan areas are also not immune to the soaring electricity rates.

Chen Chia-chin (陳嘉欽), director of Taipei City Government’s Parks and Streetlights Office, estimated that the electricity bill for streetlamps could balloon to NT$36 million a year if electricity rates rise by 20 percent, adding that the plan to reduce the lighting period for streetlamps was out of the question, as it was a matter of road safety.

Greater Tainan Government Secretariat Director Hsiao Po-jen (蕭博仁) said the city government’s electricity costs for the remaining seven months of this year, once the prices rise, could increase by NT$2.5 million, adding that it may need to draw on reserve funds if the annual budget proves inadequate.

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