The Dilemma of Taiwan's Electricity Shortages
Written by Alex Ko 10/07/2021
Taiwan is a small island lying on the Pacific, measuring 35,808 square kilometres. The population of Taiwan is approximately 23.57 million. The GDP rank of Taiwan is 21st with $759.104 billion in 2021, according to the IMF. The economy of Taiwan is the seventh largest in Asia and 20th-largest in the world. It is a miracle to keep the economy stable in areas with earthquakes, typhoons and volcanoes and without any electricity imports from other countries. But is the electricity as steady as before? Sadly, the electricity is in short supply.
The problem in Taiwan's power generation structure
The electricity consumption in 2020 was 271.094 billion KWh. The power generation of coal-fired power was 125.956 billion KWh and gas-fired power was 99.876 billion KWh. Nuclear power generated 31.44 billion KWh last year. In total, these three main powers generate 94.90% of total annual power. However, the newest nuclear power plant, Maanshan Nuclear Power Plant has been commissioned since 1984 and is going to be decommissioned by 2025. In recent years, people are asking: how do we make up for the loss of nuclear power generation? Should we use fire power or renewable energy?
Blackout: Realising the importance of electricity
In one week on The Island there were two blackouts on May 13th and 17th, 2021. On May 12th, the electricity consumption that day was 35.99 million KWh. Due to antiquated power plants and rising weather temperatures, the probability of power unit failure is higher. Taiwan’s power supply problem is no longer like walking on a steel cable, but rather on thin silk. Before, the generators had electricity reserves; nowadays, as a consequence of shortage of available units, a tiny problem is likely to cause a national blackout.
The conflict between Biodiversity and National Security
There are two upcoming public environmental referendums in Taiwan, to be held in December, 2021. One is about whether we commercially restart the Lungmen Nuclear Power Plant, as the non-nuclear policy has caused an air pollution and ecological catastrophe. The other is about moving CNPC Third Natural Gas Receiving Station (the station receives gas to generate power) away from Taoyuan Datan algae coast and waters. These two public referendums give Taiwanese people two solutions to make up the electricity generation following nuclear power plant decommission. However, many academics, government officials and members of the public worry nuclear plants could be huge targets for Chinese missiles, despite the benefits of nuclear power: low cost, high efficiency and zero air pollution production. If the public vote in favour of the transfer of the Receiving Station, then the government will have to find another location for it. The transfer would be very hard for an island with high biodiversity and being located at Pacific Rim Seismic Belt. The public referendum will decide the future of electricity generation in Taiwan.
The Option of Renewable Energy
There are several renewable energy generation methods in Taiwan, solar photovoltaic, wind power, pumped storage hydropower, biomass energy and geothermal power. We generated 18.279 billion KWh through them in 2020. Due to insufficient rainfall last year, the electricity generation from pumped storage hydropower decreased 2.523 billion KWh, compared to 2019. There are forty reservoirs on the island, with a total area of full water level at 8481.4 hectares. However, due to climate change, the rainfall does not reach as high as before. Therefore, we are looking towards solar photovoltaic as a possible solution; the government is planning to set a cumulative target of 20GW for solar photovoltaics by 2025. Due to high pressure on the development of ground-based photovoltaics, most of the solar power plants are transformed from farms; the goal for rooftops has been raised to 8GW and 12GW for ground-based photovoltaics. In the next five years, the average annual growth rate of renewable energy power generation must increase to 61.6% to reach the planned value by 2025 for renewable energy to account for 20% of total power generation, reaching a value of 61.7 billion KWh.
To surmise, climate change has resulted in less water, so hydropower generates less power than before. More solar power plants cannot be built because of land acquisition issues. Wind turbines kill many migratory birds, thus, turbine numbers are restricted to avoid collisions with birds, meaning wind farms cannot generate the maximum power. People in Taiwan look forward to replacing nuclear power with renewable energy, and we can see there are many possibilities. It might be hard to generate power self-sufficiently, but harming other creatures or bringing irreversible damage to the next generation is absolutely not an option for us.