Maintaining a stable power supply is one of the most significant challenges the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) face this year, as the nation’s power usage is expected to rise much faster than anticipated. Meanwhile, demand for smart power distribution is rising as more independent suppliers join the power network following a regulatory easing last year.
The ministry in its latest forecast said that Taiwan’s power consumption would climb 2.5 percent annually over the next few years, rather than the 1.84 percent it previously forecast, mainly because of rising demand from industrial users. That does not factor in the effects of extreme weather patterns causing heat waves and water shortages throughout Taiwan.
Taipower’s poor management of the electricity supply last year led to hours-long blackouts in May, along with numerous other power disruptions across the nation. People have been wondering whether Taipower can raise its power reserve capacity and improve its electricity distribution systems to prevent a repeat of those blackouts.
Taipower cited a raft of causes for the blackouts, from a spike in household power usage and a malfunctioning generator to equipment undergoing annual maintenance.
The nation’s power usage last year jumped 4.7 percent annually due to higher consumption by semiconductor companies, whose factories work around the clock, and by households where people were working and attending classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the supply side, Taipower said that a severe water shortage last spring significantly reduced power generation at hydroelectric plants.
Power consumption is rising this year, driven by Taiwanese manufacturers relocating from China and new investments by semiconductor companies, primarily Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, the ministry said.
Power consumption is also expected to rise in lockstep with the nation’s growing economy, which is expected to expand 4.15 percent this year, as Taiwan relies on manufacturing for economic growth, the ministry said.
Taipower expects to raise power capacity to keep up with rising electricity consumption by restoring some power plants and installing new generators. The utility plans to add an eighth generator to the Datan Power Plant (大潭電廠) and bring its No. 1 and No. 2 generators back online this year.
It is also stepping up the construction of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of Datan Borough in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音) to increase LNG power generation for companies and households in northern Taiwan.
Taipower expects four new offshore wind farms with a capacity of 2 gigawatts to connect to its grid this year, while solar power developers are expected to contribute about 3 gigawatts.
The utility plans to keep its operating reserve at about 8 percent this year, meaning that power supply should be stable.
With more plants coming online, challenges appear in the efficient distribution of power.
The utility has been slow to build power storage facilities, which are necessary to use renewable energy sources efficiently, as their output fluctuates owing to natural cycles. Taipower is not expected to have any new major storage facilities until 2025, and plans to operate facilities with a capacity of up to 1 gigawatt until then.
Taipower should deploy a smart power distribution network and build storage facilities to keep the nation’s power supply stable and mitigate possible blackouts.
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