The wind power industry in Taiwan faces challenges as international developers and investors voice concerns over supply chain localization requirements.
Although wind power projects are a good opportunity for Taiwan to develop areas such as maritime engineering and the manufacture of wind turbines and submarine foundations, the installation is even more important, Wpd Taiwan Energy Co Ltd (達德能源) chairperson Wang Yuni (王雲怡) said in Taipei on Thursday.
“The hardware and machinery part is easy, but [wind turbine installation] vessels and well-trained crew members are hard to come by,” Wang said at the Global Offshore Wind Summit, Taiwan.
The vessels are required by the government to be registered as Taiwanese, and cannot be manufactured in China, a Wpd official told the Taipei Times by telephone.
“We therefore urge local partners to work with international companies to conform [to the rule] in time.” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous.
A certain ratio of crew members must also be Taiwanese.
“If this condition could not be upheld, we would have to provide solutions such as offering internships to students from maritime schools, who would not be able to work as efficiently or full-time,” the official said.
Wpd is developing a 640 megawatt (MW) wind farm off the coast of Yunlin County.
Danish energy company Orsted A/S was last week required to provide alternative solutions as it failed to meet localization requirements for submarine foundations and foundation piles.
Orsted president for Asia-Pacific Matthias Bausenwein said that “100 percent percent localization has not happened anywhere and will not happen anywhere.”
Global Wind Energy Council chief executive officer Ben Backwell also expressed concerns over the localization issue, but said that he appreciated the government for creating a market attractive to foreign developers and investors.
“We think that the wind industry tends to localize anyway, in most places you’ll get local manufacturing if the market’s big enough,” he told the Taipei Times.
“I think actually having very strict, imposed local content rules from the government is not always helpful, and it may not build the right kind of industry as the industry has to be competitive in order to get the international prices we’re seeing for the consumers,” Backwell said.
He said the experience of the UK wind power industry could serve a good example.
“Because the UK is such a big offshore market, we now have two big manufacturing complexes for wind turbines, we have big factories producing cables, towers, jackets, services … and that was done without local content rules,” Backwell said.
Backwell said that with better logistics and efficiencies, production would happen locally.
“If Taiwan does things in a very efficient way, Taiwan can also export to other countries, especially Japan and [South] Korea,” he said. “We think the government should take a flexible approach on this.”
Tom Harries, head of offshore wind energy research at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said that wind power is a people’s business and not just about technology.
“You need skilled technicians, engineers, people to build these projects,” Harries told the Taipei Times. “Initially you might bring over some experience and some labor, but ideally you’d want this to be domestic, because there are language barriers, cultural barriers.”
The main difficulty of a skilled workforce is attracting talent, which requires a lot of marketing and education from the developers on the supply chain to provide people with incentives to partake in the industry.
For developers and investors, the least amount of localization the better, as they could build a global supply chain at the lowest costs, Harries said.
“Taiwan is an interesting dilemma where it has already started with localization … so for a lot of the supply chain you’d need that to continue,” Harries said, adding that there could be financial concerns for the local companies already involved if the local content requirement was removed.
In Taiwan, the debate is between the higher prices paid for local content versus the industry’s global competitiveness, he said.
Taiwan is 98 percent dependent on imported fuels to meet its energy demand.
As of the end of 2017, renewable energy accounted for 4.6 percent of total electricity generation, while 85.9 percent was generated by thermal power and 8.3 percent by nuclear power, Bureau of Energy Acting Director-General Lee Chun-Li (李君禮) said.
Onshore and offshore wind power generated 14 percent of electricity from renewable sources, the bureau’s data showed.
The government aims to have renewable sources comprise 20 percent of the nation’s energy makeup by 2025, with offshore wind power generating electricity of 20.7 terawatt hours (Twh) of electricity, or one-third of the 60.2 TWh renewable electricity supply, Lee said.
Offshore wind power capacity is set to increase to 5,738MW by 2025 from 8MW in 2017, the bureau said.
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