Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport recently experienced yet another sudden power outage resulting in delays for many travelers. It was the fourth outage in a year, but it was not related to Taiwan Power Co’s (Taipower) systems. It was caused by equipment that is not managed by Taipower.
Airports in many developed countries have their own cogeneration systems to guarantee a stable multisource power supply to protect the public’s rights and interests. For example, international airports in San Francisco and Los Angeles have cogeneration systems of different sizes.
In this situation, the power company is in effect a backup supplier of energy to the terminals, offering a second guarantee. In addition, emergency diesel-powered generators — which also exist at Taoyuan airport — provide a third guarantee, although they cannot be sustained for long periods and should be the last option.
This is the reason why a cogeneration system should be installed even if the power it generates is a bit more expensive.
Cogeneration systems have two other advantages. As they generate both heat and electricity, thermal efficiency can surpass 80 percent, making it one of the most efficient energy-saving solutions. This is also why many countries encourage and stipulate that power companies must purchase surplus energy generated by cogeneration systems as part of their cost avoidance policies. Taiwan is no exception.
The second advantage of a cogeneration system is that following the growing proportion of distributed energy resources, unstable solar and wind energy generation requires greater backup capacity, while cogeneration allows the flexible adjustment of the proportions of thermal and electric energy generation, making it one of the best backup systems.
This is why a developed country like Denmark estimates that cogeneration systems will continue to make up about 30 percent of total power generation capacity until 2030, while solar and wind generation will make up more than 50 percent and coal-fired generation will provide less than 20 percent.
This means that following Taiwan’s energy generation transformation toward green energy, a greater focus should be placed on the development of regional cogeneration systems and the construction of micro-grids that can operate independently and combine cogeneration with renewable energy sources.
It is worth noting that although there are more than 80 cogeneration systems in Taiwan, they all belong to the manufacturing industry and most are coal-fired. This is different from the situation in developed countries, where the main energy source is natural gas and the systems are used in the services and the manufacturing industries.
Furthermore, the vast majority of the liquefied natural gas that the nation imports is used by Taipower and private power plants for traditional power generation, which has a thermal efficiency of about 50 percent. This, unfortunately, is far less than at a cogeneration system.
The government should join the international trend toward green energy and energy savings, and pay more attention to developing a strategy for natural gas-fired cogeneration systems, which should be primarily used at service industry hubs or important buildings.
This would result in a stronger and more resilient energy system, facilitate flexible plans for a larger proportion of renewable energy generation and make stable low-carbon power supply in smart cities and communities a reality, thus guaranteeing the public’s right to use electricity.
George Hsu is a professor in the applied economics and management information systems departments at National Chung Hsing University.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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