By Stephanie Chao, The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — President Tsai Ing-wen led inspections of Linkou Power Plant Monday as Taiwan Power Company prepared to see whether two new units at the facility were ready to handle the heavy summer load. She praised the No. 1 and 2 generators as an ideal example of how traditionally “dirty” coal-fired power plants can reduce their carbon emissions. The units were decommissioned in August 2014 to make way for the new models, which, compared with those of privately operated Mailiao Power Plant, are 6.93 percent more efficient and pump 2 percent more energy into the grid. Taipower regularly finds itself with perilously low operating reserves, particularly in hot weather, when the likelihood of brownouts or blackouts is common. More from Less Unit No. 1 started operations in October and is currently the only one producing energy at the plant. As of February, it had generated approximately 3.8 billion kilowatts per hour — enough to power 100,000 households for 10 years. The unit comprises three high-efficiency ultra-supercritical coal-fired units capable of generating energy with lower carbon emissions; each unit is capable of generating 800 megawatts of power.

Unit No. 2, which has the same setup, completed a 96-hour continuous capacity test in January and is slated to begin pumping electricity in April in time for the peak months.

A third unit is scheduled to begin operation by the end of next year. ‘A model example’ In opening remarks before touring the facility, Tsai lauded the plant for leading the nation’s efforts to transition to greener energy sources. “Of all the coal-fired plants in Taiwan, the Linkou plant serves as a model example in managing air pollution,” she said. In addition to the more efficient generators, the plant transports and stores its coal in air-tight containers.

Tsai praised the plant for investing in technology to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxide, with emissions nearly as low as those of plants using natural gas, which is generally a greener alternative to coal. She also cited Taipower’s “ecological power plant” efforts, which are aimed at ensuring a thriving environment around the plant. Measures taken at the site, which is situated right on the coast of Northern Taiwan, include investing in wild lily restoration and marine-based farming. As peak power use season neared amid the push for greener energy, the nation did not have the luxury of taking a wrong step, Tsai said.

Before emissions-free sustainability energy could be scaled up enough to fill the gap that will be left by the planned phasing out of nuclear power by 2025, she said, extending the life of and even expanding existing coal-fired power plants would be necessary.

Tsai said she hoped that a power generation ratio of 5:3:2 for natural gases, coal and green energy could eventually be reached.

Despite the pollution caused by coal energy, she added, Linkou Power Plant was a valuable demonstration that such emissions could be reduced through technology.