07/11/2016, 10.38
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Taiwan, new government faces "energy dilemma"

by Xin Yage

The population fears possible nuclear disasters like Fukushima and calls for the total denuclearization of the island. On the other hand, the need to cut CO2 emissions does not leave much room for the old sources of electricity. Renewable, however, unable to meet demand.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - In addition to the various political and economic problems, the new Taiwan government - in office for just over a month - is facing with a dilemma that does not just regard the newly elected President Tsai Ying-wen (蔡英文) and Prime Minister Lin Chuan (林 全) but also the entire population: the energy dilemma.
In this day and age no power means no progress. The energy sector is the foundation on which to build the entire national infrastructure. Taiwan imports most of its energy needs (over 85%), and at the same time produces a significant amount of electricity given the strong industrial vocation of the island. Production and transport require energy, reliable electricity, without power cuts.
Since the beginning of the new government's term, teh most pressing question has been the future of energy production, especially given the presence of strong anti-nuclear movement that has grown following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 . Taiwan is headed resolutely towards absolute denuclearization, but a good number of experts (and non) are wondering if this is really possible without at the same time compromising the planned cuts to CO2 emissions.
Prime minister Chuan Lin had to answer some specific questions. On June 13, during a press conference he had to respond to the growing concern of many citizens whether Taiwan will suffer blackouts during the summer, which is when air conditioners send the energy demand  sky high.
Following statements regarding Taiwan renunciation of nuclear energy by 2025 (2025 年 非核 家園), there is a need to ensure that alternative energy and thermal power plants can meet the needs now bypassed by nuclear power. Beyond the usual promise: "Even without the fourth power plant Taiwan will not suffer blackouts" (核四 不 商 轉, 2025 非核 家園 台灣 也不 缺電) the public and the entire Taiwanese industry want more specific data.

Lin was very realistic in his answer: despite repeated government initiatives around the concept of clean energy and the creation of innovative industry in order to create an "Asian Silicon Valley" on the island, he said it will take years for this to be realised, since renewables are not yet a profitable market and above all do not provide energy at any time of day or night. So how will the government deal with this problem and the resulting energy shortage it will cause?

Immediate possibilities range from increasing the production of electricity in nuclear reactor number two in the first power plant, which is still active. The reactor number one has already been switched off, and Lin Quan reassured that will not be restarted. The same goes for the reactor number two in the second plant. "Re-starting them would mean thwarting the efforts made to begin the path to a nuclear-free island", he concluded.

During the next press conference on the energy issue, which took place June 16, Finance Minister Lee Chih-kung (李世光) stated that "there is no contradiction" between the closure of nuclear power plants by 2025 and investment on the part of 'state-owned Taiwan Power company (台灣 電力 公司) of $ 13 million before 2030 in solar, wind and geothermal energy.

This will allow the production of 3.5 million megawatts and will guarantee energy security on the island, while improving the efficiency in the consumption and production. "The most delicate moment will be the next two or three years, when little by little we will continue to close down reactors" said Lee.

Obviously the Taiwanese population is shocked by the fact of having nuclear power plants on the island, prone to violent earthquakes and possible disasters caused by tsunamis in the Pacific. Another matter is China and India, where nuclear power is irreplaceable given the huge present and future demand for electricity.

Professor Wang (王 教授),  a recently retired professor of engineering and energy production, explains: "Now in the world, globally, nuclear power is making a comeback as a source of clean energy to meet the achievement of the objectives linked to CO2 emissions. Without the contribution of atomic power plants, with a simple arithmetic calculation, its clear that solar, geothermal, water and wind power cannot meet the increasing energy demands while we eliminate coal " .

The book published by the late David Mac Kay (Sustainable energy, without hot air; "可持續 能源, 不再 講 空話") and the international commitment signed in COP21, continues the professor, "reveal numbers and not slogans. Among academics, it seems that only Mark Jacobson, a professor at the prestigious Stanford (famous for his plan to make the United States 100% dependent on renewable energy) seem to believe in a miracle without nuclear power. Others say that the fourth generation of nuclear reactors will be the expected miracle, both for their safety and for the ability to burn and eliminate the existing waste, as in the project company Terra Power sponsored by none other than Bill Gates and by the Chinese government ".

Taiwan statistics are clear in reiterating the absolute failure of production of renewable energy if we consider the objectives linked to CO2 emissions cuts. Prof.Lin (林先生), researcher at Fu Jen, demonstrates the numbers: "Taiwan has less than ten percent of its energy coming from nuclear power and less than one percent from the solar and from wind. We are invited by the international community to reduce CO2 emissions. The same Pope Francis says in Laudato sì 'number 165:' technology based on fossil fuels, polluting, should be replaced gradually and without delay '. The way things stand, right now it is impossible to renounce nuclear energy and reach these objectives. "

China and India, he points out, "realize this and build new power plants. For us, unfortunately, on the island there is the variable of earthquakes and possible tsunamis, after the disaster in Japan, the population is scared. But with the new fourth generation facilities , who knows, maybe some ideas will change. Focus on research for renewable and clean energy is still the only solution. "

Statistically, it should be stressed that Taiwan consumes more energy per capita than the average in Western Europe.

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