Shen'ao power plant project depends on gas-fired supply: premier

10/09/2018 03:35 PM
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Premier Lai Ching-te
Premier Lai Ching-te

Taipei, Oct. 9 (CNA) Whether the proposal to reopen and expand the coal-fired Shen'ao power plant proceeds depends on whether Taiwan can generate enough electricity from gas-fired generation facilities to meet future demand, Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德) said Tuesday.

On the sidelines of a hearing held at the Legislative Yuan, Lai said the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) is assessing whether the capacity of power plants that run on natural gas is sufficient to cover the planned capacity of the Shen'ao plant in New Taipei.

Lai was asked about the issue after a planned project to build Taiwan's third liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving terminal on the Taoyuan coast passed a controversial environmental impact assessment (EIA) on Monday.

"Taiwan is at a transition point in energy development," Lai said. "The government has never dropped the principle of maintaining a balance between economic development and environmental protection."

The government has done an about-face on the Shen'ao project with nationwide local elections less than two months away amid heavy opposition because of air pollution concerns.

It began pushing the project in the wake of a power blackout on Aug. 15, 2017 that highlighted Taiwan's low electricity reserve margins and potential electricity shortfalls as it phases out nuclear power.

Lai's administration pushed through an EIA for the plant in March 2018. At the time, the Ministry of Economic Affairs said it was necessary to meet reserve margin targets in 2025, by which time Taiwan is to be nuclear free.

But last week, Lai promised to study the feasibility of not proceeding with the Shen'ao project on condition that the plan to build the third LNG receiving terminal, needed to support more gas-fired power generation, proceeded smoothly.

The EIA process for the terminal had dragged out amid opposition from environmental activists, who argued that construction of the terminal would adversely affect the conservation of an endemic species of algae on coastal reefs at the planned construction site.

The MOEA said it has been studying the possibility of adding new gas-fired power generators in existing gas-fired power plants in Linkou in New Taipei or in Datan in Taoyuan that will use gas from the new LNG terminal.

Deputy Economics Minister Tseng Wen-sheng (曾文生) said the planned new gas-fired power generation facilities could add 1 million kilowatts in power production capacity.

He pledged to come up with a conclusion on whether the Shen'ao coal-fired plant can be scrapped as soon as possible.

State-run oil refinery CPC Corp., Taiwan said the LNG terminal is expected to start operating in 2023, supplying 500,000 metric tons of LNG in the first quarter of that year. The supply is expected to rise to 3 million metric tons a year in 2025.

Lai, meanwhile, said he never pressed members of the EIA committee reviewing the LNG receiving terminal project to vote for it.

He was responding to a statement on Monday by Deputy Minister of Environmental Protection Chan Shun-kuei (詹順貴) in which Chan publicly announced his desire to resign.

Chan said Lai's high expectations voice publicly before EIA committee meetings led some members to refuse to show up in protest, causing the nation's environmental assessment system to lose its credibility and making it harder for the system to function normally.

Though Lai said he exerted no pressure on the committee, six of the seven government-appointed members of the 21-member committee voted on Monday to pass the project's EIA, and the seventh, Environmental Protection Administration chief Lee Ying-yuan (李應元), abstained because of his position.

Of the 11 members not present, three recused themselves due to possible conflicts of interest and eight simply did not show up.

The vote was valid, however, because only half of the 18 members eligible to be at the meeting needed to attend to form a quorum.

(By Liao Yu-yang, Chen Chun-hua, Wen Kuei-hsiang, Lin Meng-hu and Frances Huang)


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