After a break, Taiwan Sustainable Cities is back with a roundup of Taiwan's recent energy and environment news.
In the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis, fears about disaster mitigation and nuclear power have been renewed in Taiwan. Nuclear energy plays an important role in Taiwan's energy production and environmental discourse. Taiwan currently has three nuclear power plants that provide roughly 20% of the nation's electricity, but a recent survey indicated that only 35.4% of respondents supported nuclear power. Authorities from Taiwan's Atomic Energy Council (AEC) have attempted to alleviate public concern regarding the safety of Taiwan's reactors. However, the Taiwanese legislature has suspended construction of Taiwan's Lungmen nuclear power plant. Subject to several delays, Taiwan's controversial 4th nuclear plant had been recently rescheduled for a 2012 opening. Opposition members have demanded that the new plant be able to withstand a 9.0 magnitude quake (Taiwan's current nuclear facilities are estimated to be able to endure 6.0-7.0 seismic activity). Responding to the crisis, Taiwan Power Company has issued a statement that it will seek to reduce power supplied from nuclear sources in favor of alternative energy.
Renewed concern over nuclear energy
Taiwan's energy demand continues to soar on the back of the economic recovery. Encouragingly, Taiwan's energy efficiency has also experienced significant gains. The Bureau of Energy reported that Taiwan's energy efficiency increased by 4% in 2010, doubling the government's annual goal of 2% from 2008-2015. The Taiwanese government recently upset solar investors by reducing the solar feed-in tariff by 30%. The government cited falling solar PV equipment costs for the reduction but subsequently announced increases for feed-in tariffs on off-shore and on-shore wind energy by 30% and 10% respectively. And for those who missed it, Renewable Energy World offers an excellent article on Taiwan's transition to sustainable energy.
The Hushan Reservoir in Yunlin County is scheduled for a 2014 opening. As an article in Taiwan Today notes, Hushan has reignited the debate over systematic issues with Taiwan's water usage and policy. The buildout of Hushan and other large reservoirs in Taiwan have been criticized by environmental groups for damaging the ecosystem in order to serve the water needs of large industry. Reservoirs in Taiwan have been plagued by high silt levels, reducing their efficiency. The construction of dams and reservoirs have also done little to improve issues such as water leakage and high rates of water consumption.
The central government is maintaining caution about increased cross-strait water dependency. Jinmen County officials have suggested the notion of importing water from China to meet the island's needs. Ironically, it is an anticipated influx of Chinese tourists that would precipitate the demand for imported water. Although a Jinmen-Mainland water connection would represent a very small exchange, the issue highlights the sensitivity of cross-strait energy-water cooperation.
As the legislature continues debate on a cap and trade policy, Taiwan witnessed its first carbon trading transaction in February 2011. The government is also considering other ways to reduce Taiwan's carbon footprint. The EPA announced its plans to implement a framework to promote carbon neutrality. A "carbon neutrality management platform" will create a public registry of carbon neutral actions and layout guidelines for corporations and private citizens to reduce their CO2 emissions. On Arbor Day, President Ma led a symbolic afforestation effort as 30,000 trees were planted around the island. Taiwan is over 1/3 of the way towards achieving its goal of planting 60,000 hectares of forest by 2018, sequestering 300,000 tons of CO2 each year. Despite recent government action, a January 2011 survey conducted by the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy revealed that the majority of respondents believed the Taiwanese leadership was not doing enough to prevent climate change. 61% of those surveyed supported a national carbon tax and 52.7% approved of electricity rate hikes to increase the amount of renewable energy.
The Taipei MRT completed its latest extension connecting the Bannan and Wenhu lines. By 2015, four main MRT lines will undergo additional expansion, accompanied by a new circular line and Taoyuan Airport extension. Owners of real estate near new MRT stations can rejoice: values surged in 2010 for apartments above or close to MRT stations in New Taipei City.
Taipei MRT continues to expand
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) reaffirmed its green transportation goals for Green Island and Xiaoliuqiu Island. As a part of its effort to promote ecotourism and low carbon development on Taiwan's outlying islands, MOTC aims to replace all gasoline-powered motorcycles on both islands with electric models over the next four years. Furthering the push for electric vehicles, two Taiwanese government-funded institutes recently announced their formal collaboration with U.S.-based Underwriter Laboratories (UL). UL will help establish national standards for Taiwan's burgeoning electric vehicle market.
The new Hsiangshan visitor center at Sun Moon Lake opened in February 2011. The winner of the Landform Series competition, the structure utilizes a large green-roof to blend in with its natural surroundings. On the heels of its "Asian Green Cities Index," Siemens Taiwan announced the launch of a new smart building model. The initiative plans to unite smart grid technology, renewable energy, and supply-side energy management to integrate green buildings and smart cities.
Despite Taiwan's murky political status, there are still 23 countries with which Taiwan maintains formal diplomatic relations. President Fernando Lugo of Paraguay recently made a state visit and encouraged Taiwanese investment in energy-intensive industries. Tuvalu, a Polynesian island nation of less than 11,000 residents, has also remained a Taiwanese ally since 1979. On a recent visit, President Ma announced a program to deploy Taiwanese solar energy and LED technology to improve the island's rural electrification. In the past, Taiwan implemented a similar program with fellow ally Burkina Faso.