Striving for Energy Transition
According to Bureau of Energy Director-General Lin Chuan-neng, while working toward the goal of a nuclear-free Taiwan, equal attention must be paid to ensuring a stable power supply and low greenhouse gas emissions.
Striving for Energy TransitionBy Kwangyin Liu
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 623 )
According to Bureau of Energy Director-General Lin Chuan-neng, while working toward the goal of a nuclear-free Taiwan, equal attention must be paid to ensuring a stable power supply and low greenhouse gas emissions. By 2025, he says, it is expected that natural gas, coal, and renewables will form the three largest sources of power for the nation.
The following are excerpts from our interview with Lin:
CommonWealth (CW): This year is a key year for Taiwan’s energy transition. What is the core of the transition strategy?
Lin Chuan-neng (Lin): Two basic principles underlie the energy transition strategy: moving towards a nuclear-free homeland, while ensuring stable provision of electrical power.
The vision of a nuclear-free Taiwan can be found in the Environmental Basic Law, but it has not been implemented. A clear timeline, based on the year 2025, was drawn up after President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration took office. The core principles of energy transition are still a stable electric power supply along with making our best efforts to reach our low-carbon targets.
Natural gas will play a key role in ensuring the stable provision of electrical power.
On the path to energy transition, we hope to achieve a mix of renewable energy at 20 percent, natural gas at 50 percent, and coal at 30 percent by 2025. However, why does the proportion of coal burning rise from the current 45 percent to 50 percent in 2020? This is mainly because, as the first and second nuclear power plants are decommissioned, the capacity of alternate renewable energy installations and natural gas generators will lag behind at that point.
Natural Gas as Main Power Source
Why will it take so long? Mainly, this is because not only must natural gas generators be updated, but liquid natural gas (LNG) receiving stations must be sited, environmental impact assessments made, construction carried out, and long-term purchasing agreements made with overseas partners - all of which take time.
CW : The Ministry of Economic Affairs’ announcement of the energy transition pathway was met with considerable incredulity that the proportion of the pie occupied by thermoelectric power would actually increase, and questioning whether green energy is a pipe dream.
Lin: The government has never in fact stated its intention to replace nuclear power with green energy. This is because renewable energy cannot provide uninterrupted base load energy and is completely unrelated to nuclear energy production, so there is no issue of replacement.
The development of green energy cannot be achieved overnight.
Advanced European countries like Germany and Denmark took well over a decade to complete energy transition. This is a job for which the groundwork must be laid over the long term, and is not something that can be rushed.
CW : How will coal-fired power still account for 30 percent of energy production by 2025, instead of relying entirely on natural gas for base load power?
Lin: Energy is increasingly diversified, and the more diversified it is, the better a stable energy supply can be ensured. Even in the case of Germany, which stands at the forefront of energy transition, in 2030, coal-fired power generation will account for 17.6 percent of energy production, with natural gas contributing 22.3 percent, combined with renewable energy at 55 percent. The idea here is to retain diverse energy sources
CW : Does the significant increase in the proportion of natural gas energy production signal a steep rise in energy prices?
Lin: The cost of energy production is mainly tied to international energy prices. While it is difficult to say with certainty how prices will fluctuate in the coming several years, the cost of natural gas power generation has dropped from NT$5 per unit to just $3 since eight years ago, and as natural gas supplies continue to increase, we can expect costs to become more reasonable.
In addition, an “electricity price stabilization fund” mechanism was added to revisions to the Electricity Act, funded by TaiPower’s excess earnings. When there is a large fluctuation in energy costs, it can be activated to stabilize electricity prices.
CW : Energy transition requires broad consensus throughout society. How do you go about convincing the public about the necessity of energy transition and making necessary changes?
Lin: In April, the Bureau of Energy unveiled new guidelines for energy development, formulated on the core principles of energy security, green economy, sustainability, and social equity.
Under the direction of the Executive Yuan’s Office of Energy and Carbon Reduction, a series of preparatory meetings will be held starting in July. Through citizen participation and collaboration, along with an ad hoc working group of experts, we aim to gather broad input over online forums to help inform and facilitate our objective of producing a white paper on energy transition by the first quarter of next year, so that energy transition can become a shared goal among the entire citizenry.
What is the difference between these efforts and previous national energy conferences criticized as “pep rallies?” In the past, consensus was formed in two days, while these days we take six months to achieve focus and aim to incorporate the views of all stakeholders. It is not just drawing up an official notice and posting it on a wall, but a process of building consensus and mapping out a program for action.
CW : Many Taiwanese manufacturers are equipped to compete, but worry about stable power provision. How does industry look at energy transition?
Lin: I have sensed that attitudes are slowly changing among numerous industries, and more and more people are becoming aware that Taiwan’s electricity rates are the third-lowest in the world. So rather than demanding low energy prices, it is more important to be on top of trends in international energy costs. We have heard industry’s voice, and in the future we would like to disclose energy costs to allow businesses sufficient time to respond.
Translated from the Chinese by David Toman