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In apparent U-turn, MOEA revokes Taoyuan stoppage of 3 SRF plants

06/10/2024 08:44 PM
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A plant of one of the three companies is under construction in Taoyuan in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of a private contributor June 10, 2024
A plant of one of the three companies is under construction in Taoyuan in this undated photo. Photo courtesy of a private contributor June 10, 2024

Taipei, June 10 (CNA) Plans by three companies to build solid recovered fuel (SRF) power plants in Taoyuan are back on track despite strong local objections after the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) overruled the city government's cancellation of the projects.

In a directive issued on June 6, the MOEA overturned Taoyuan's move in March to revoke city permits for the plants because of problems discovered with the companies' applications.

This means that Cleanaway Co. Ltd., Taiwan Cube Energy Co. Ltd., and Li Jiang Development Co. will be allowed to proceed with their plans to build SRF power plants in the Taoyuan Hi-Tech Industrial Park in Guanyin District.

It was an appeal by Cleanaway against the city's decision that led to the MOEA's decision.

Taoyuan Mayor Chang San-cheng (張善政) said Sunday that the MOEA's decision was regrettable, but stressed that Taoyuan will carefully monitor the steps the companies have to follow in building the plants to protect the health of city residents.

The controversy dates back to late 2020, when the MOEA held meetings to discuss the installation of "renewable energy" plants in the Taoyuan park and discussed conditions that companies were required to meet.

Among them was having applicants seek to set up an SRF plant and receive recommendation letters from the MOEA.

The three companies received MOEA recommendations between late 2020 and mid-2022, respectively, and Taoyuan approved their applications within months, the last one coming just days before Chang took over as mayor in late December 2022.

In November 2023, roughly two months before Taiwan's most recent presidential election, the MOEA rescinded the recommendation letters.

That led Taoyuan under the newly elected Chang of the Kuomintang (KMT) to cancel the approvals it gave to the three companies in March 2024 on the grounds that without the recommendation, the application procedures to install an SRF plant in Taoyuan were incomplete.

The MOEA, under the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, revoked the city's decision on June 6 in response to Cleanaway's appeal, arguing that the recommendation letter requirement for the companies was merely advisory and not legally binding.

The MOEA also said the city did not provide a legal basis for invalidating its previous permits.

Local leaders, ward chiefs and residents criticized the central government for its handling of the matter, and said Guanyin residents were considering heading to Taipei to protest its decision, according to a United Daily News report.

City Councilor Wu Chin-chang (吳進昌) contended that the MOEA and former Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦) of the DPP rescinded the recommendation letters ahead of the presidential and legislative elections for fear of losing votes over the issue, it said.

Guanyin already has the gas-fired Tatan Power Plant, which Wu said has caused serious pollution, and now three more SRF power plants will only add to that, according to the report.

KMT Legislator Tu Chuan-chi (涂權吉) described the policy flip-flop as a politically motivated move and said it demonstrated a lack of credibility, it added.

SRF is a fuel produced by shredding and drying commercial waste such as paper, plastics, textiles and wood. It has the advantage of taking resources that might otherwise be incinerated or dumped in landfills and turning them into energy.

Advocates say SRFs generate fewer emissions than coal when used to produce electricity, and its high calorific value allows it to be used in cement kilns to generate power in place of coal.

There are potential disadvantages, however, including the potential to generate pollution and emissions and disincentivize recycling.

(By Flor Wang and Wu Jui-chi)

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