Taipei, April 28 (CNA) Electricity prices could rise sharply if Taiwan decides to completely replace nuclear power with natural gas energy, Economics Minister Chang Chia-juch warned Monday.
Chang said that if the nearly-completed fourth nuclear power plant is not put into operation and the three operating nuclear plants are retired in favor of natural gas power, a 40 percent increase in electricity can be expected, based on current fuel prices.
Chang made the comments at a press conference after the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou and the ruling Kuomintang lawmakers (KMT) agreed Sunday to halt construction of the two reactors at the fourth nuclear power plant.
They decided, however, to finish the safety inspections on the plant's already completed first reactor and seal it before mothballing the project.
The Executive Yuan has also promised to convene a national energy conference as soon as possible to discuss how Taiwan can ensure an adequate supply of electricity in the future, Fan Chiang Tai-chi, head of the KMT's Culture and Communication Committee, said Sunday.
Asked about the possibility of power rationing in the future, Chang said Taiwan could face a power supply problem if the fourth nuclear power plant is not brought online, the current 10 power plants burning coal, fuel oil, or natural gas are decommissioned 2014-2016 as scheduled, and the three operating nuclear plants are phased out starting in 2018.
According to state-owned Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower) estimates, Taiwan's electricity operating reserve margin could drop to below 10 percent in 2018, Chang noted. If it declines further to 7 percent, this will be defined as a power shortage and electricity rationing measures will be adopted, he said, citing Taipower.
If the existing power generating facilities are to be retired in the next few years and the fourth nuclear plant is not put into service, the government will have to start now to build new natural gas power generating facilities, Chang said.
Even so, it will have to deal with the complicated problem of fuel supplies, he added.
(By Sophia Yeh, Hsieh Chia-chen and Evelyn Kao)
●April 28: No immediate plans to raise electricity rates: MOEA
●April 27: Halting nuclear plant construction means bankruptcy: Taipower
●April 27: Government halts fourth nuclear plant construction (update 2)
(Click here for stories before the debate on nuclear power was recently rekindled.)