SITREP | The Impacts of Global Energy Trends on Taiwan’s Energy Policies

SITREP | The Impacts of Global Energy Trends on Taiwan’s Energy Policies

By Po-Yao Kuo
AGI - Asian Growth Research Institute

Before the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011, some countries promoted nuclear power generation because that they were sensitive to energy security, and nuclear power is considered as a semi-domestic energy source. Furthermore, nuclear power plants produce electricity without CO2 emission. Thus, expanding the proportion of nuclear power generation to reduce carbon emissions from electric power plants is being considered by many countries as an important GHG mitigation option. On the other hand, many countries prefer to promote renewable energy technologies, which are clean and are import-free, in order to conquer climate change and enhance energy self-sufficiency. The market success of some renewable energy technologies, such as wind and solar power, in some countries has been driven by policy support during the last two decades.

A man in the control room of Taiwan's Taipower Kuosheng nuclear power station

In light of the country's lack of sufficient domestic hydrocarbon resources and the urgency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the previous energy policies in Taiwan were implemented with an intention to maintain or expand the nuclear power and renewable energy usage in response to energy security and global warming. When ex-President Ma Ying-jeou took office in May 2008, one of the government’s priority policies was developing strategies to balance energy security, economic development and environmental protection. Thus, the Ma administration laid down the “Framework of Taiwan’s Sustainable Energy Policy” in June 2008, which included the following targets:

(a) Improving energy efficiency by more than 2% per annum and decreasing energy intensity by 20% by 2015, and by 30% by 2025 depending on further technological breakthroughs and proper administrative measures;

(b) Reducing nationwide CO2 emissions to their 2008 level between 2016-2020, and to the 2000 level in 2025;

(c) Increasing the share of low-carbon installed power generation capacity from 40% to 55% in 2025, which includes the share of renewable energy to 8% and the share of natural gas to 25%;

(d) Promoting energy conservation schemes, especially an increase of 30% in terms of the carbon intensity of the industrial sector and 25% of the fuel efficiency standards for private vehicles by 2015;

(e) Providing a comprehensive regulatory framework and relevant mechanisms, including legislation on the four GHG reduction acts, the establishment of a fair, efficient and open energy market, an increased annual energy research budget, the design of a carbon emission trading scheme, and the promotion of education on energy and climate change; and

(f) Securing a stable energy supply.

Some new guidelines have also been developed in Taiwan’s Third National Energy Conference held on April 2009 based on three goals as below:

(a) To work toward a “low-carbon homeland”;

(b) To developing a future economy, society, environment and technology based on the concerns of energy; and

(c) To coordinate government policies to achieve a “low-carbon society” and “low-carbon economy.”

In accordance with the framework and the conference conclusions, nuclear energy is considered to be one of important low-carbon power sources, especially its role as a semi-domestic baseload power source. During this period of time, Taiwan’s fourth nuclear power plant was under construction. Extending the lifetimes of Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants was considered. Furthermore, the Legislative Yuan has quickly passed the “Renewable Energy Development Act” in July 2009, which sets a target of 6.5-10 GW for the rewardable gross capacity of renewable energy, as well as the amendments to the “Energy Management Act” in July 2009, which tighten energy efficiency standards and establish energy information labeling systems for energy end-use products and require advanced management for large energy users, in 2009. Moreover, the “Greenhouse Gas Reduction bill” has been designed to implement compulsory inventory and reporting, adopt an emission trading system and efficiency standards, and promote a cap-and-trade and emission offset trading scheme. Finally, the Executive Yuan in Taiwan established the cross-ministry Energy-Saving and Carbon-Reducing Promotion Committee and New Energy Development Promotion Committee in the end of 2009.
Map Attribute: Various Types of Power Plants in Taiwan
Map Attribute: Various Types of Power Plants in Taiwan

Taiwan’s Energy Policies after March 2011

The Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011 exposed the discussion of the nuclear safety issues in Japan, as well as in Taiwan. Public confidence in safety of nuclear power in Japan was greatly damaged by the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and called for a reduction in the Japan's reliance on nuclear power. Similar situation happened in Taiwan, too. Therefore, Taiwan’s government announced a new energy policy for “ensuring nuclear safety and steadily reducing nuclear dependency as well as creating a low-carbon green energy environment and gradually moving towards a nuclear-free homeland" in November 2011. 

The key points of the new energy policy were summarized in Table below. The government decided to conduct a comprehensive review of the operation of three existing nuclear power plants to find out how to guard against earthquakes and flash floods and whether it is necessary to institute an anti-tsunami capacity. All nuclear power plants have established emergency procedures and periodic drills for situations with the design basis. These plants were also required to follow new safety procedures and to take new measures to deal with and avoid the reactor meltdown and the leak of radioactive material. Furthermore, all existing plants will be decommissioned without extending operational lifetime. Moreover, nuclear power plant safety issues also highlight the challenges of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant as to whether it should begin operation after its construction is finished. Taiwan’s government promised in the new energy policy that the fourth nuclear power plant must come under close scrutiny by international experts before the plant begins operation.

Table Attribute: Key points of Taiwan's New Energy Policy in November 2011

Table Attribute: Key points of Taiwan's New Energy Policy in November 2011

Taiwan’s New Renewable Targets in January 2014

Taiwan’s Renewable Energy Development Act passed in July 2009 set a renewable energy target of 6,500~10,000 MW of installed power capacity, and began implementing feed-in tariffs (FITs) mechanism. In the 2nd meeting for the New Energy Development Promotion Committee in 2010, the Ministry of Economic Affairs suggested the renewable energy target of 8,968 MW by 2025 and 10,858 MW by 2030. After Fukushima event in 2011, Taiwan’s government reviewed the renewable energy deployment target and raised it to 12,500 MW by 2030. Taiwan’s government announced new renewable energy deployment target again on January 13, 2014, as shown in Table below. The new target for the installed renewable energy capacity adjusted to 13,750 MW by 2030, which is 10% increases compared to the target originally suggested in 2011.

Table Attribute: Taiwan’s new renewable targets announced in January 2014

Table Attribute: Taiwan’s new renewable targets announced in January 2014

Halting construction at the fourth nuclear power plant in April 2014

State-owned Taiwan Power Company operates three nuclear power plants, and the existed Nuclear 1 (expected to retired in 20182019), Nuclear 2 (expected to retired in 20122023) and Nuclear 3 (expected to retired in 20242025) will be decommissioned between 2018 and 2025 when their authorized 40-year lifespans expire. On the other hand, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is being constructed. However, the safety concerns triggered by the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan were lingering in Taiwan continuously. Thus, Taiwan’s government was forced by buoyant anti-nuclear protests to rethink their policy on nuclear following the Fukushima disaster.

On April 22, 2014, Lin Yi-hsiung, the 8 th former chairman of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and a longtime anti-nuclear activist, began a hunger strike to demand that the government halts the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant. On April 27, 2014, the spokesman for the ruling Kuomintang party said the government and the ruling party agreed that after the pre-operational safety inspection process has been completed for unit 1 of the fourth nuclear power plant, it won't go into operation, but will be in mothballs. Meanwhile, all construction work on unit 2 will be halted immediately. In January 2015, the Atomic Energy Council, Taiwan's state regulator of nuclear power, approved a proposal by state-owned Taiwan Power Co. to freeze construction of the fourth nuclear power plant.

Holding the National Energy Conference 2015 in January 2015

The challenges for the use of nuclear energy affect Taiwan’s future of electricity supply security, which is also a major challenge for Taiwan’s long-term energy policy. While Taiwan’s government decided to halt the remaining construction of the 4 th nuclear power plant in April 2014, the spokesman for the ruling party also said that the cabinet agreed to hold a national energy conference as soon as possible to ensure the future of energy supply.

On January 25-26, 2015, the National Energy Conference 2015 was held. The retirement of existing nuclear reactors and the fate of the 4th nuclear power plant were significant issues during this conference. Some have asked to extend the life of the existing nuclear power plants from 40 to 60 years, and have wanted Nuke 4 to begin operations as early as possible for enhancing energy security, inhibiting electricity price rise and combating climate change. Anti-nuclear activists, however, strongly opposed the measures. Since nuclear issues were very controversial, the participants had been unable to reach a consensus on whether the nuke plants should continue operating after the heated debates.

After this two-day energy meeting, the Cabinet could not make a clear conclusion on the development or abolishment of Taiwan's nuclear power, and Premier Mao Chi-kuo concluded with remarks that the Cabinet will not be commenting directly on its stance regarding all nuclear energy-related issues. This result means that Taiwan’s government has not been able to resist the anti-nuclear protests and to retain nuclear power as one of major energy sources in the future. However, there were no proper alternative suggestions concluded and a responsible energy policy needed for the economic growth of Taiwan was failed to be reached by this time.

Publication Details:

Publication title - AGI Working Paper Series, volume 2015-10, page range 1-29 year 2015-03 URL http://id.nii.ac.jp/1270/00000016/

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