The 22nd Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC, COP22) held in Marrakesh, Morocco just concluded. COP22’s purpose is to discuss “action items in order to achieve the priorities of the Paris Agreement.” The landmark climate agreement, adopted on December 2015, and entering into force on November 4, 2016 sent a clear message that all the nations of the world are working together in order to overcome the threat of climate change in this century.
Despite the fact that Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations or legally bound by any international agreement related to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, Taiwan acts as a responsible stakeholder by continually reforming domestic policy to implement international standards. Its international isolation is because of political pressure from China, but this does not affect Taiwan’s pursuit of becoming a sustainable, low-carbon society.
In 2015, Taiwan passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (溫室氣體減量及管理法) in order to address climate change. This Act also set a long-term goal to reduce GHG emissions in the nation to 50 percent of 2005 levels by 2050. In 2016, President Tsai Ing-wen vowed to play a more active role in promoting renewable energy, reducing GHG emissions, and moving toward a “nuclear free home (非核家園)” by 2025.
Moreover, the Tsai administration has set a clear goal of increasing renewable energy dependence from 4.5 percent to 20 percent by 2025. This 20 percent of power will reportedly be supplied by a planned 20GW of solar power and 3GW of offshore wind power. In addition, the Tsai administration also plans to amend the Electricity Act (電業法) in two stages: diversification then liberalization. The first stage of the amendment’s implementation will focus on diversifying the energy mix to include more renewable energy and establishing the required regulatory mechanisms over the electricity market. Once the first stage is completed, the second stage will be launched, in order to liberalize the power market for traditional energy suppliers.
In early July 2016, the Tsai administration issued the first draft of the amendment to the Electricity Act (電業法修正草案). Under the first stage amendment, the government will liberalize the power market to prioritize renewable energy suppliers within the electricity market. Renewable energy suppliers will be able to generate and sell renewable energy directly to public users. Currently, renewable energy suppliers will only be able to sell their energy to Taiwan Power Co. (台灣電力公司, Taipower), which is a state-owned company. Moreover, the Tsai government indicated that it will restructure Taipower after six to nine years during the first-phase of the amendment’s implementation. Taipower has long been criticized for monopolizing the electricity market, since it was established by the government. Under the first stage of the restructuring, Taipower will reportedly be converted into a holding company that has one subsidiary in charge of power generation, and another in charge of electricity transmission, distribution and sale. The government believes that this first stage will induce growth in the renewable energy industry, along with “stabilizing power supply, developing green energy capabilities, establishing power transmission,” and more. Once this happens, the second stage of the restructuring will focus on liberalizing the power market for traditional energy suppliers. The traditional energy suppliers will be required to satisfy the obligations of renewable portfolio standard (能源配比) and reserve margin (備用容量). The second stage of the amendment will only be launch when renewable energy is reaching a certain level of electricity consumption.
Besides the amendment to the Electricity Act, the Tsai administration also issued the amended Guideline on Energy Development (能源發展綱領修正草案). Under the amended guideline, the Tsai administration set several goals: achieve energy safety, a green economy, sustainable development, and social justice. In order to achieve the above-mentioned goals, the Tsai administration launched the Green Energy Innovation Industrial Park Project (沙崙綠能科學城) in the Shalun area of Tainan City. This project will create a renewable energy research and development center and testing site (綠能科技示範場域) to integrate all renewable energy resources from both the public and private sectors, such as the development of solar, offshore wind, biomass power technology, energy storage technology, and energy conservation technology, among others. In addition, the project will provide research and development subsidies to renewable energy industry in order to target emerging and high-growth sectors of the global green economy. By doing so, Taiwan will have the capacity to export its renewable energy technology into international markets.
The impact of climate change will not be isolated to regions or countries. Climate change is a challenge facing all of humanity. However, it is not too late to act to mediate the effects of climate change. Due to its geography and geology as a subtropical island, Taiwan is even more vulnerable to the impact of climate change and therefore the Tsai administration has prioritized green energy policies. Although Taiwan is not a member of the Paris Agreement, other signatories can learn from Taiwan’s example of laying out a regulatory gal framework for combatting climate change.
The main point: Despite not being a member to the Paris Agreement, Taiwan has already taken several steps to amend its domestic regulations to comply with international standards.