Providing sufficient and low-priced energy to support industries is a top priority for governments throughout the world. Taiwan is no exception. The price of electricity on the island has been ranked the second cheapest in Asia, despite the fact that over 97 percent of its energy supply depends on imports. Low energy prices may be the cause for the large amount of energy consumption on the island. The average volume of carbon emissions per person amounts to 11 tons in Taiwan, almost equal to three times the world’s average. While the Tsai administration appears committed to building a ‘nuclear free homeland’ (非核家園), it must also devise carbon emission reduction policies that strike a careful balance between energy security, economic development, and environmental sustainability.
Nuclear power is not panacea to Taiwan’s electricity problems
There are currently three operational nuclear power plants in Taiwan, with a total capacity of 5.144GW. Taiwan—like Japan—is located on the Pacific Rim seismic zone and frequently experiences earthquakes and faces the risk of nuclear accidents similar to Japan’s devastating 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. From a risk perspective, Taiwan cannot afford to depend on nuclear power given how frequently earthquakes strike the island each year. According to one government estimate: “The annual average number of earthquakes recorded from 1991 to 2004 increased to 18,649 (monthly average was approximately 1,554), of which approximately 1,047 were felt.”
Taiwan is a densely populated island and nuclear waste disposal is a controversial issue. The costs of cleaning a nuclear waste spill are beyond estimation. Nuclear power accounted for 14.13 percent of total power supply in 2015; thus, removing nuclear power from the energy mix will not necessarily lead to a critical deficit in the country’s electricity supply.
With the procurement of more efficient thermal generators as well as gas-fired generating units, there are reasons to believe that Taiwan can expect a stable supply of electricity as it phases out nuclear power by 2025. Summer, with its high temperatures, is a time when electricity supply capacity is stressed and can cause power shortages. To prevent potential power shortages, authorities have to focus on two components: one is to enhance power supply capacity during peak time; the other is to improve peak-load management.
To replace nuclear power with other clean energy in the coming decade, Taiwan’s government will reportedly tap into green energy. In so doing, Taiwan can raise its degree of energy self-reliance, diversify the portfolio of the national energy supply, lower its dependence on thermal power, and actively respond to the call to reduce carbon emissions.
Taiwan should accelerate the development of green energy
Taiwan currently possesses advantages in the development of solar power and wind power. First, in regard to solar power, Taiwan enjoys long hours of sunlight and small solar declination. Moreover, Taiwan is the second largest solar cell manufacturing country worldwide and has a complete solar industry supply chain. These advantages provide a solid foundation for solar power development in Taiwan.
Secondly, Taiwan ranks high on the Global Offshore Wind Speed Rankings reported by 4C Offshore, an environmental consulting firm. Among the 20 best places for wind farms, 16 of them are located along the Taiwan Strait on the West Coast of Taiwan. Industrial Technology Research Institute’s report revealed that the development potential for the 36 preferred offshore blocks (from Northern to Southern Taiwan) was 1.2 GW at water depths of 5–20 m, 5 GW at 20–50 m, and 9 GW at 50–100 m. Considering cost-efficiency, technical maturity and the promise of future development, Taiwan should concentrate on developing solar and wind power.
As the supply of green energy rises and energy-storing technology improves, Taiwan should utilize green energy in the transport sector, such as electrical or fuel cell vehicles. This will lower both carbon emission and reliance on imported oil. In the long run, green energy is the better way to satisfy our energy demands.
Constructing new energy policies
Developing green energy is not only be the solution to increasing Taiwan’s energy self-sufficiency, but also to increasing its security. Further, it is in line with the government’s effort to develop future industries.
With renewable clean energy attracting international attention, Taiwan will join other nations in creating balanced green energy policies based on Taiwan’s unique climatic conditions and natural resources. These policies could, in turn, encourage private investment in the research and development of renewable energy, promising greener future generations.
New energy policies that guarantee energy security, environmental sustainability, and economic stability are essential for Taiwan’s future.
The main point: Taiwan is committed to fostering green energy as part of its efforts to transform the island into a nuclear-free homeland. Developing green energy can also fuel investment and employment that will help contribute to economic security.