Premier Lin Chuan (林全) yesterday apologized for a wide-ranging power blackout on Tuesday last week, while reaffirming the government’s energy transition objectives.
The blackout was caused by a disruption in natural gas supply after technicians did not follow standard procedures during routine replacement of a power supplier to a gas metering system of a major power plant in Taoyuan’s Datan Township (大潭), causing all six generators at the plant to shut down, Lin said.
The blackout and ensuing power rationing affected 5.92 million households nationwide, while 423 manufacturers reported losses and about 900 elevator failures were reported.
Taiwan Power Co said it would waive the affected users’ electricity bill for the day, totaling NT$360 million (US$11.87 million), and conduct a complete re-examination of the nation’s power system, Lin said.
The outage foregrounded two long-existing problems of the power supply: over-reliance on major centralized power stations and inability to cope with emergency situations, he said.
However, “the determination to transition energy will not be affected by an unpredicted incident,” he added.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers questioned the government’s policy of running on a minimum-level operating reserve while increasing the percentage of electricity contributed by gas and “green” energy sources in a bid to phase out nuclear power and reduce the use of coal.
While the International Energy Agency advises an operating reserve of 22 to 30 percent, Taiwan’s reserve this year is only 7.8 percent, which cannot guarantee a stable supply, KMT Legislator Alicia Wang (王育敏) said.
The nation can deal with all emergency situations with a minimum operating reserve of 7.2 percent, Lin said, adding that it would be a waste of resources if it is increased to more than 15 percent.
“There is no power shortage issue in Taiwan,” Lin said. “It was not a low operating reserve, but a malfunctioning grid system that caused the outage.”
The nation’s operating reserve is only a little above the minimum during this initial transitional stage, but it is to gradually increase as new generators and solar and wind farms come online, boosting the reserve to 13.8 percent next year, he said.
KMT legislators Lin Wei-chou (林為洲) and Wang Hui-mei (王惠美) asked the premier to promise that no more outages or power rationing would take place during his term, but he refused, saying that no nation could guarantee an uninterrupted power supply at all times, but the risk of outages could be reduced when risk factors are identified.
The electricity bill waiver is good compensation, as few power companies elsewhere would recompense for the inconvenience caused by outages, Lin Chuan said in response to People First Party Legislator Chen Yi-chieh’s (陳怡潔) question if the waiver — amounting to NT$34 per household — was unacceptable.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Ho Hsin-chun (何欣純) asked if the spare nuclear capacity could have averted the blackout if relaunched, to which Lin Chuan said the incident was a grid management issue, not a capacity issue.
Even if an idle reactor at the Guosheng Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Wanli District (萬里) had been reactivated, it could not have averted the blackout, Lin Chuan said.
However, it might have prevented a short reduction in air-conditioning in public buildings following the shutdown of the Ho-Ping Power Plant in Hualien County caused by a typhoon on July 29, he added.
Short-term power shortfalls should not necessitate the reactivation, Lin Chuan said, adding that a promised non-nuclear power source portfolio consisting of 50 percent gas, 30 percent coal and 20 percent renewable is an attainable goal by 2025.
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