Mon, Jun 11, 2018 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Academia Sinica president plans for low-carbon future

The concepts of carbon neutrality and a low-carbon society could help reduce air pollution and lower the nation’s carbon footprint, which requires transitioning to cleaner sources of energy, Academia Sinica President James Liao said in an interview with ‘Liberty Times’ (sister newspaper of the ‘Taipei Times’) staff reporters Chien Hui-ju and Jennifer Huang

Academia Sinica President James Liao smiles in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Academia Sinica

Liberty Times (LT): The nation cannot process its nuclear waste and is planning to shut down its nuclear power plants. Taiwan needs to change its sources of energy, but also wants to cut back air pollution and carbon emissions. You have suggested moving to a carbon neutral society. Could you elaborate?

James Liao (廖俊智): Achieving carbon neutrality in society is important, but it is difficult to accomplish quickly. The transition should take place in three stages.

First, it is most important to improve the nation’s resource efficiency. That does not simply mean cutting back total energy consumption, but also creating renewable energy capacity and slowly replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Existent models and technology can be used to cut down carbon emissions and pollution.

To achieve this, industries have to improve production processes, upgrade their equipment and avoid excessive energy use during peak hours — for example, by using intelligent regulation to rotate operations during off-peak hours between factories and reducing energy use during peak times.

Advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence, smart electricity meters and smart power grids can help raise energy efficiency, but we should also pursue heat recycling.

An example of heat recycling is capturing and reusing waste heat generated by air conditioners or other machines and supplementing it with solar power to heat water more efficiently.

This kind of direct energy transfer also reduces energy losses when generating electricity from heat. The technology is not new; with some engineering it can be implemented directly.

In the short term, existing solutions can be used to achieve immediate effects. Meanwhile, the government can step up enforcement and execution of its policies.

It could enforce mandatory vehicle inspections; encourage the use of vehicles up to their mileage limit; promote public transportation usage, electric scooters and renewable energy for vehicles; and improve insulation of buildings.

Energy storage needs to be built to facilitate the large-scale construction of renewable energy plants in the middle stage. Energy storage technology is available, but large-scale and long-term storage that is also economically viable is still a great challenge.

The middle stage involves establishing a framework for a society that is highly energy efficient and has a low carbon footprint. Industries need to transform into businesses producing high-quality products that are not energy-intensive, but brain-intensive.

Manufacturers, for example, should streamline assembly lines and vary operating hours to maintain low-energy consumption while cutting down total carbon emissions.

Public transportation and private vehicles must be completely electrified and the government must step up circular use of resources, such as by recycling heat, and private and agricultural waste. This would help reduce urban air pollution while simultaneously increasing green energy use. Heat from kitchen compost and garbage can be used directly, for instance.

In the long term, developing methods to convert carbon dioxide into usable fuel would allow the reuse of carbon. Therefore, the development of carbon-conversion technology is important. Research on such methods is in the early stages, but will hopefully accelerate.

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