The International Energy Agency defines energy security as “the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price.”
Achieving that has proved to be challenging for Taiwan and Japan, as the two nations are facing similar problems: high dependence on imports of energy resources, environmental pressures to transition to green energy and debates over nuclear power.
Japan’s energy self-sufficiency rate is quite low, at only 11.2 percent, due to the country’s lack of natural resources.
Last year, Japan’s share of energy output from fossil fuels fell to 84.8 percent — a trend that began after the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami — while thermal power generation using fossil fuels accounted for 71.7 percent of electricity output.
Japan’s high dependency on the Middle East is also a critical issue that needs to be considered.
Its dependency rate on oil from that region is as high as 92 percent.
With the potential for conflict between oil-producing nations, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East poses a long-term threat to Japan’s energy security.
Taiwan faces the same issue. Thermal power generation dominates Taiwan’s electricity generation, accounting for about 82 percent of its output.
In 2020, 98 percent of the fuel Taiwan consumed came from foreign countries. Taiwan’s reliance on the Middle East for oil imports was similarly high, at 72.5 percent.
Hence, the two countries should look to diversify their energy sources as soon as possible.
Moreover, Taiwan has deep concerns over China’s actions in the Middle East.
Beijing has over the past few years steadily strengthened its influence in the region, evidenced by continued infrastructure investment in Iran and Syria.
Taiwan’s role in trade with the Middle East is changing.
The worst-case scenario is the nation being affected by short-term supply disruptions due to China’s economic pressure on regional countries such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
Another concern for Taiwan and Japan is power transition. As climate change worsens and the political backlash for inaction continues to grow, transition to new energy systems have become a must.
Countries have begun aggressively competing to introduce renewable energy on a large scale and promote the adoption of electric vehicles.
Japan has steadily introduced renewable energy strategies.
The share of renewables, which was about 12 percent in 2014, reached more than 22 percent last year. Of that amount, 9.3 percent came from photovoltaic power generation.
However, Japan might need to further push efforts in this regard.
With Europe as a leader in renewable energy, Taiwan and Japan should emulate its impressive improvements in the sector. The share of electricity generated by renewables in the EU in 2017, at the time including the UK, exceeded 30 percent and reached about 38 percent last year. This was almost the same share as electricity generated from fossil fuels, and it is nearly twice the share of renewable electricity in Japan.
Moreover, Japan’s Renewable Energy Institute says that the country stands to benefit the most from energy transition given its enormous amount of renewable resources and the availability of technological infrastructure to use them.
Taiwan is also on the way to decreasing carbon emissions and it has set up an energy transition plan.
By 2025, liquefied natural gas is expected to generate 50 percent of Taiwan’s electricity, with the remaining supply coming from coal (30 percent) and renewables (20 percent).
In 2020, 45 percent of Taiwan’s electricity was generated by coal, 35.7 percent by natural gas and only 5.4 percent by renewables.
The difference in Taiwan’s and Japan’s power transition strategies is the role of nuclear power. Taiwan’s power transition plan includes shutting down all its nuclear power plants.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida recently said that nuclear reactors would be a part of the country’s future energy policy to help reduce its reliance on energy imports from Russia.
Kishida made the policy proposal part of his strategy for next month’s Japanese House of Councilors election, as well as for addressing rising energy prices, which are putting a strain on people’s budgets.
Japan became more reliant on Russian gas after its closure of nuclear reactors following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster, in which an earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown that devastated the country’s northeastern region.
Japanese antipathy toward nuclear power was firm, but is now changing.
A poll in March showed that 53 percent of Japanese supported a reboot of the available nuclear power plants, even though four years ago, more than 60 percent of the public opposed restarting nuclear power.
Japan, which frequently faces natural disasters such as earthquakes, needs to ponder ways to address people’s worries if it is to tackle issues of energy vulnerability, given that it cannot steadily produce the required amount of renewable energy.
It is a hard pill to swallow for those who do not want potentially dangerous nuclear power plants, but also do not want to rely on non-green thermal power generation.
In Taiwan, the key points of political contention concerning nuclear power are related to government transparency, indigenous rights and democratic community engagement.
The Fukushima disaster made Taiwan’s antipathy toward nuclear power stronger.
The nation needs to figure out how to address this issue.
Power shortages are also a concern for Taiwan. Demand has increased as the economy expanded, but supply has stagnated.
Taiwan’s economy is heavily reliant on the vital, but energy-intensive electronics industry. The expected increase in electricity demand in the years ahead might negatively affect not only the environment, but also Taiwanese manufacturers, as their major partners, such as Apple, require their suppliers to use only renewable energy.
Taiwan has to ensure that enough electricity is produced in the country, or it would miss the significant business opportunities necessary for the development of its economy.
Taiwan and Japan should learn from each other to improve energy security, for example through cooperation in offshore wind energy.
Japan has the sixth-largest exclusive economic zone in the world, and its offshore wind energy potential is exceptionally high.
Taiwan has offshore wind farms off Miaoli and Changhua counties, which Danish energy company Orsted says could generate enough electricity for up to 1 million households.
Japan has adopted offshore wind power legislation that governs the entire life cycle of power production, from site analysis to maritime spatial planning and subsidies. The legislation could set an example for Taiwan.
Japan needs an energy security strategy that emphasizes stability in the Taiwan Strait and energy independence. This presents a chance to address energy security, assist Tokyo in achieving its climate objectives and permit Japan to be more assertive in regional security challenges.
Mai Shimajiri is a research assistant at the Taiwan NextGen Foundation.
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