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New energy policy to emerge within two months: MOEA

2011/05/04 17:48:58

Taipei, May 4 (CNA) Economics Minister Shih Yen-shiang saidWednesday his ministry will present a new energy policy within one totwo months after being grilled by legislators who questioned thegovernment's effort to ween Taiwan off fossil fuels or nuclear power.

Shih pledged to come up with a new policy after briefinglegislators on Taiwan's alternative energy policy and energy savingefforts in a session of the Economics Committee.

Taiwan plans to increase renewable energy sources as a percent ofthe country's total electricity generating capacity from the current6 percent to 16 percent, or 10,858 megawatts, by 2030, Shih said,with a quarter of it coming from offshore wind turbines.

He also expected the installed capacity of solar energy toincrease to 2,500 MW by 2030 -- from 8.5 MW today -- to provideanother quarter of Taiwan's renewable energy.

But Shih did not offer a clear position on nuclear power, whichaccounts for 21 percent of Taiwan's total power production atpresent.

Public demand for renewable energy has been on the rise in thewake of a nuclear crisis that gripped Japan after a powerfulearthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant in northeastern Honshu.

More than 15,000 people marched in Taipei on April 30 to opposenuclear power, worried that Taiwan, which is as vulnerable toearthquakes as Japan, could very possibly also face the threat of anuclear disaster.

Lee Chun-yi, a legislator of the opposition DemocraticProgressive Party (DPP), suggested increasing Taiwan's liquefiednatural gas (LNG) capacity to replace nuclear power, but Shih was notenthusiastic about the idea.

He said it would take six to eight years and at least NT$150billion to replace one of Taiwan's six nuclear reactors with naturalgas turbines.

Replacing the capacity of all six reactors with natural gasturbines would cost more than NT$1 trillion, and "we haven't eventalked about where we will purchase the LNG from," the minister said.

"It's been a dilemma for us. If we replace nuclear power withother types of power, such as LNG, that will drive our carbonemissions up, " Shih said.

Lee countered that the public would rather face the threat ofhigh emissions than the threat of a nuclear disaster, especiallyafter what happened in Japan, which he said is why the DPP hasproposed a "nuclear-free homeland."

Lai Shyh-bao, a legislator of the ruling Kuomintang (KMT), saidthat judging from public opinion, Taiwan will not likely be able tokeep all four of its nuclear power plants -- three active and onestill under construction.

He suggested that one possible scenario would be to retire thethree operating nuclear power plants, whose reactors startedoperating between 1978 and 1985, and keep the new No. 4 plant.

KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung said Wednesday he was one of a fewlawmakers who could no longer support the further development ofnuclear power because of heavy pressure from anti-nuclearconstituencies.

Lawmakers also blasted the government for not doing enough topromote green building and energy conservation and efficiency orrestructure the country's industrial base and phase out highenergy-consuming industries.

Shih argued, however, that electricity prices are a major factorin making government policy on energy, and said Taiwan's extremelylow prices would be a thing of the past as renewable energy capacitygrew.

"The government has determined that alternative energydevelopment is the only option and there is no looking back, " Shihsaid. "However, you can't expect to keep electricity prices at thecurrent low level with all of these changes being made, " he added.

(By Chris Wang and Ann Chen)