Industry figures concerned over electricity prices

Staff writer, with CNA

Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 3

Several local industrialists voiced concerns yesterday over a potential steep rise in costs in the event of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), not going into operation.

A referendum proposal on the fate of the controversial facility has been scheduled for discussion in the current extraordinary legislative session and is facing fierce opposition.

Among the anxious business leaders, Yeh Yi-hsiung (葉義雄), chairman of the Taiwan Textile Federation, said that without the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant coming online and boosting the nation’s supply of electricity, the local textile sector would face rising production costs, which could force more firms to move overseas to survive.

Yeh said that with an exodus of Taiwanese investors gathering pace, it is possible that incomes in the nation would deteriorate and deal a further blow to the weakened economy.

On Friday, opposition lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan blocked a vote on a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) proposal to hold a referendum on whether construction of the power plant should continue.

The KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party have vowed to fight each other on the issue next week when the special legislative session continues.

Wu Tsai-yi (吳再益), president of the Taiwan Research Institute, said that if construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is suspended and it does not become operational, Taiwan would need to seek out alternative sources of power.

Wu voiced fears that the higher costs of such energy sources could boost domestic electricity prices by 14.14 percent, adding that such unfavorable economic conditions could drag down real GDP by 0.43 percentage points by 2018.

Construction of the power plant started in 1999 and the facility was scheduled to become operational in 2015. So far, construction is about 90 percent complete. The plant has become the subject of intense political debate with many activist groups demanding that Taiwan become free of nuclear power.

Wu said the steel and dyeing sectors, which require high levels of electricity supply, could become the biggest victims should the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant not become operational.

Taiwan Steel and Iron Industries Association chairman Tsou Juo-chi (鄒若齊) said that if the plant’s construction is suspended indefinitely, and the nation’s three operational nuclear plants do not extend their service tenure, the local steel sector would see its operating costs increase by between NT$4.8 billion and NT$5.5 billion (US$160.2 and US$183.5 million) in 2018, and rise by between NT$12.5 billion and NT$15.5 billion in 2026.

Chou, who is also chairman of China Steel Corp, said the steel industry has more than 300,000 employees and any material impact on the business, such as rising operating costs, could affect the livelihoods of these employees’ families, who number about 1 million people.

Yeh said South Korea, one of Taiwan’s major rivals in the global market, was planning to increase electricity supply generated by nuclear plants to aid its industrial development and that consequently, Taiwan’s textile sector could lose its competitive edge if electricity supply does not meet demand.