Activists slam electricity market reforms

By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — A pressure group has slammed the newly amended Electricity Act, warning it would increase carbon emissions and consolidate Taipower’s monopoly over the energy market. Mom Loves Taiwan (媽媽監督核電廠聯盟), a nuclear-safety group, criticized the revised act, arguing it did not go far enough to support the renewable energy sector.

The group also accused Tsai Ing-wen’s government of using the revisions “to protect Taiwan Power Company’s (Taipower) dominance and market monopoly.” The group called on the government to make further revisions, saying “the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) must quickly propose new amendments … that would clearly separate power generation, distribution and sales, within three years to improve market competition and help renewables development.” The Electricity Act currently requires power sellers to maintain a certain level of energy reserves.

Yet renewable energy providers with limited generation capacity would be forced to rely on coal and natural gas to maintain reserves, ultimately pushing up emissions, Gloria Hsu (徐光蓉), the group’s director, said.

“(The newly revised act) is unhelpful when it comes to lowering carbon emissions and also prevents small companies from becoming price-competitive with large ones,” Hsu said. Without fresh revisions, the government’s plans to phase out the use of nuclear power by 2025 and procure 20 percent of the nation’s electricity from renewables would fail, Hsu added.

She warned that unless additional revisions were made within three years, the only options left would be more nuclear power, more coal-fired power stations and more natural gas. Yang Shun-mei, Mom Loves Taiwan’s secretary-general, urged the government to lay out a blueprint of how it would achieve 20 percent of generation from renewables by 2025. This figure currently stands at 4 percent. Hsu went on to criticize what she described as the “Ministry of Economic Affairs’ failure to properly oversee Taipower operations” ‘Prioritize existing problems’ She panned claims from the government and Taipower that power shortages during off-peak seasons were the reason behind the prioritization of environmental inspections. Hsu instead urged the government to inspect the management of the state-owned business. “What should be addressed is Taipower’s inability to carry out repairs on time, resulting in prolonged maintenance periods and delayed construction when updating existing equipment.” She added that procuring new generators to stem short-term power shortages would only exacerbate the problem in the long run. Taipower should also increase energy efficiency, specifically for coal-fired and natural gas plants, as inefficiencies were another reason for power shortages, Hsu said.

She cited numbers from the Bureau of Energy that show Taipower used 10 percent more coal and natural gas than privately owned firms did. Lawmakers, however, seemed pessimistic about the chances of a new round of amendments.

Asked to comment on the viability of pushing fresh revisions through the Legislature, Kuomintang (KMT) Caucus Whip Liao Kuo-tung said it was unlikely, barring “special or urgent circumstances.” But the KMT lawmaker added that it was “critical” for the government to find a way to generate 10 percent-plus of the country’s electricity from renewables.