energy is the only solution
By Chen Mo-shing
The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant issue has been the subject of much controversy in Taiwan. As a long-time researcher in power generation policy, here are my suggestions for Taiwan's energy reform and development, which can be divided into three phases -- short term, medium term, and long term.
Short term (2000 to 2010)
1. I suggest that Taiwan promote liberalization of the power industry honestly and effectively. Each of the future power plants needs to be taken as an independent company. Traditional power systems -- such as coal-fired and nuclear power systems, including the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant -- need to be changed or cancelled. Taiwan should start building small natural gas power plants right away and gradually replace 50 percent of its power with clean and efficient natural gas over the next 10 years. The use of coal-fired and nuclear power needs to be steadily decreased, and the government should shut down at least two of the three nuclear power plants during this phase.
2. At least 20 percent of Taiwan's energy should be generated by hydropower, renewable energy and fuel cells. To achieve this goal, we need to develop modern techniques for renewable power plants immediately. For this part, I believe we can adopt many of the latest technologies from the Hsinchu Science-based Industrial Park to enhance Taiwan's power industry. This is also a great opportunity for the government to promote power reform in Taiwan. Thus, the power industry needs to closely work with the high-tech industry to improve our renewable and major power systems in order to make a profit by modern energy techniques.
3. The capacity of Taiwan's new power plants should not exceed 500 megawatts each. Small, efficient and clean power plants should be highly promoted on this small island. Just as with my suggestion to the US government, if we enhance Taiwan's large power transmission system with some "mini-generator groups", we can save more than NT$400 billion. These mini-generator groups, about 50 megawatts each, can be connected to high-voltage transmission lines and can efficiently solve power shortage during peak hours. Thus, after building these mini-generator groups, we won't need to spend so much money to build more transmission lines and won't have to worry about power outages during peak hours any longer.
4. Small power plants, with proper co-generation installations, can effectively produce heat or electricity and will raise the "heat efficiency". Once these small power plants start operating, the total heat efficiency of Taiwan's power industry, currently controlled and operated by Taipower, is expected to go up from 35 percent to 70 or even 80 percent.
5. Although the demand for electricity in Taiwan has continued to increase, the amount of imported natural gas can actually decrease if we improve Taiwan's power efficiency.
Medium term (2010 to 2020)
In this phase, I have the following suggestions for Taiwan's power reform: First, the government should continue to promote clean and efficient small power plants. All inefficient traditional coal-fired power plants should need to pay an "environmental protection tax", and the duty will be increased every year. Second, all nuclear plants in Taiwan should be closed after 2010. Third, build more natural gas pipelines in Taiwan. Fourth, 35 percent of Taiwan's power needs to be generated by hydropower, renewable energy and fuel cells. Fifth, coal-fired power must be dropped to 15 percent of Taiwan's energy. Sixth, carry out the liberalization of power in Taiwan completely. Seventh, Taiwan should try to reduce the need for imported natural gas by improving power efficiency.
Long term (after 2020)
After 2020, all nuclear and coal-fired power plants need to be banned. Efficient natural gas power plants with co-generation systems should be continuously promoted in order to generate at least 50 percent of Taiwan's power capacity. The production of other power systems, generated by hydropower, renewable energy and fuel cells, should also go up from 35 to 50 percent during this phase. Meanwhile, Taiwan must try to develop new products by using the latest repowering techniques in order to make more profit to cover its spending on the imported natural gas. Moreover, I hope Taipower can make a breakthrough in the development of fuel cells and make all automobiles in Taiwan gas-free. By that time, the automobile industry all over the world will purchase fuel cells from Taiwan. Since Taiwan's power efficiency is expected to further increase, our need for natural gas will drop continuously. Taiwan's coal gasification industry may have matured by that time, leading its power industry to a bright future.
Taiwan's high-tech industry is playing a leading role in the international community and is making great strides today. The power industry, however, is far behind other advanced countries. If Taipower can actively improve itself, future prosperity as we now see in high-tech industries is not impossible.
Chen Mo-shing is a professor and the Director of the Energy Systems Research Center, University of Texas at Arlington.
Translated by Eddy Chang