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Magazine digest -- Higher energy prices needed in green effort

2011/05/09 14:22:20

Cheap electricity bills have led to Taiwan having one of thehighest levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per capita in Asia,even as local companies are using energy-saving measures mainly tocreate a better image.

According to statistics from the International Energy Agency,Taiwan's CO2 emissions per capita of 11.8 tons in 2006 was the 18thhighest in the world and the highest in Asia.

It is estimated that 60 percent of the emissions came from energyconsumption.

However, any talk about raising utility prices has long beentaboo for politicians as they worry about losing votes over theissue.

Jay Fang, chairman of Green Consumer's Foundation, said decadesof low electricity prices have resulted in a lack of willingness tomake any effort to conserve energy in Taiwan. Instead, more powerstations were built, despite protests, he said.

The losses of the state-owned Taiwan Power Co. in 2011 isestimated at nearly NT$50 billion (US$1.75 billion) because of risingfuel oil and natural gas costs. As a result, by 2021, 50 percent ofits new power generators will be coal-burning ones that cost less butcause more pollution.

Although the government has been saying that cheap energy pricesare aimed to lowering costs and improving competitiveness of localbusinesses, energy costs are actually quite low compared withcompanies' revenues.

Hsu Fang-ming, deputy director of the Risk Management & CorporateESH (environmental, safety, and health) Division at TaiwanSemiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) , said electricity costs areless than three percent of the company's revenues.

The energy-saving measures of the world's largest contract chipmaker, Hsu said, are more aimed at meeting its socialresponsibilities than cutting costs.

Tsai Tong-ho, president of paper manufacturer Cheng Loong Corp.,also said the main consideration behind the company's wind powergenerators at its factory in Hsinchu is a better corporate image.

Tsai said despite government subsidies for installing thegenerators, the company estimated that it would take 10 years beforethe costs could be recovered.

Meanwhile, the initiative during 2008 and 2009 of raisingelectricity prices and providing discounts to users who lowered theirpower consumption showed that higher prices did help save energy.

After two hikes in July and October 2008, 11.6 billionkilowatt-hours of electricity were saved during the first half of2009, a 13 percent decrease from the same period in 2008.

Given Taiwan's low energy productivity and high CO2 emissions perkilowatt-hour -- 25 percent higher than the world's average -- thecountry's energy policy should focus more on promoting conservationthan building power stations.(CommonWealth 470)(translated by Kay Liu)

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