Taiwanese government has conceded to anti-nuclear power protests and suspended the operation of the fourth nuclear power plant indefinitely.
According to the statistics of US Energy Information Administration, Taiwan has limited domestic energy resources and must rely on oil and coal imports to satisfy the majority of its energy demand. In 2010, oil and coal made up almost 85% of Taiwan’s total primary energy consumption while the remainder was mostly natural gas and smaller amounts of various renewable energy sources.
Taiwan’s electricity net generation grew by nearly 32% from 2000 to 2010, which put a strain on the environment. As a result, Taiwan enacted the Renewable Energy Development Act in 2010, which promotes installation of electric generation capacity that is fueled by renewable energy sources. Taiwan authorities hope to raise electric generation capacity fueled by renewable sources from 8% in 2010 to 16% by 2025.
Taipower estimated Taiwan would face power shortages if the fourth nuclear power plant does not become operational, since the three operating plants are scheduled to be retired by 2025. Despite the generation of electricity from alternative energy sources, electricity shortages would remain an issue and would have a considerable impact on households as well as businesses, Taipower said. The shortage would only get worse, especially in northern Taiwan. Taipei uses up to 40 percent of the total electricity generated annually by Taipower nationwide because of its large population. Taipei residents might face power restrictions sooner than expected, as two coal-fired power plants are scheduled to be shut down this year. If the three operating nuclear power plants retired as scheduled in 2025, the country’s total electricity supplies would drop by 40 billion kilowatts a year, which would leave up to 90 percent of household demand for electricity unmet.
So if we give up nuclear energy, what can we rely on? More coal and oil? They produce a lot of pollution and are definitely less green than nuclear. How about wind and solar power? The problem is that they are still not reliable and quite expensive. Germany, for example, currently generates three percent of its total energy needs through solar power and produces 20 percent through renewable sources. But the electricity price tag for Germans is at least three times that for Americans. Even if Taiwan can reach German level of renewable sources under heavy subsidies, we are still 80% short. There is no problem with giving up nuclear power. It is definitely an environmentally friendly solution. However, is it an economically friendly solution?