Taiwan needs energy debate, German diplomat says

Staff writer, with CNA

Thu, Oct 24, 2013 - Page 4

Instead of debating whether to have nuclear energy or not, Taiwan should hold a comprehensive energy debate to map out future policy, a German diplomat in Taipei said.

Germany wasted a lot of time deciding whether to keep nuclear energy — a debate that lasted for more than 30 years until a national consensus was reached in 2011 to scrap nuclear power plants by 2022 — something that should not be repeated by Taiwan, German Institute Taipei Deputy Director-General Mirko Kruppa said.

“Move forward and go into a full-fledged energy policy debate for the future that gives everybody — consumers, companies and investors — a clear perspective of what will happen in the next 30 to 40 years,” Kruppa said in an interview on Monday with Central News Agency.

Without a coherent energy policy, there could be endless debate on nuclear energy, which would take its toll on taxpayers, Kruppa said.

Improving energy efficiency, as well as liberalizing and decentralizing the energy market, for example, are among the issues that Taiwan should explore, Kruppa added.

Germany is about 20 percent to 30 percent more energy-efficient than Taiwan, he said, adding that building codes in Europe — where new buildings are required to be energy neutral by 2020 — and even in China are also much more strict on energy efficiency than those in Taiwan.

Buildings account for up to 30 percent of a country’s energy consumption, not to mention the old machinery and facilities used by some industries, meaning that “there is a lot of potential” for Taiwan, Kruppa said.

He also stressed the importance of a free energy market in which everyone can produce energy.

“If you decentralize and liberalize, you can put more renewables into the mix,” Kruppa said.

A free energy market also benefits ordinary people, such as farmers and homeowners, who can generate electricity on their rooftops or land, as well as lower Taiwan’s dependency on energy imports, Kruppa said, citing Germany’s example.

He admitted that higher energy prices would be inevitable in such a scenario, but he added that the current system of subsidizing energy is not a sustainable solution.

Taiwan currently operates three nuclear power plants, two in New Taipei City (新北市) and the other in Pingtung, that are all about three decades old.

They provide about 20 percent of the nation’s electricity, but are scheduled to be decommissioned beginning in 2018.

The construction of the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City, has taken more than 14 years and has so far cost taxpayers about NT$300 billion (US$10 billion). It is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Electricity supplies generated by renewable energy sources currently account for just 3.4 percent of Taiwan’s total, while renewable energy sources already make up 25 percent of Germany’s electricity production.