TAIPEI (CNA) — The Taichung City government on Wednesday announced it will revoke coal-use permits for two generators at Taichung Power Plant and fine the plant NT$9 million (US$299,368) for continuing to use more coal than legally permitted and failing to cease the use of raw coal for power generation.
The city government’s decision came after the fossil fuel power plant, one of the largest of its kind in the world, was deemed to have not made sufficient improvements to reduce its coal consumption. It has also been fined twice for exceeding the legal limit for coal use for this year, Mayor Lu Shiow-yen (盧秀燕) said.
The power plant, operated by state-run Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), has violated the Air Pollution Control Act and Taichung’s newest coal control regulations that stipulate coal use at the Taichung plant is limited to 11.04 million metric tons between Jan. 2019 and 2020.
As a result, the city government decided to revoke permits for the plant’s older No. 2 and No. 3 generators, with effect from Jan. 1, 2020, Lu noted.
Lu said that cutting coal use by 40 percent, retiring older and more polluting equipment and replacing it with newer and more environmentally-friendly units is the city government’s principle for coal control.
The city government was compelled to rescind the coal-use permits for the two generators for the sake of the city’s air quality and residents’ health, she added.
Taichung City government fined the plant NT$3 million Dec. 3 for consuming 11.08 million metric tons of coal as of Nov. 27, exceeding the annual limit of 11.04 million metric tons set by the local government and asked it to make improvements within 10 days or face further consequences.
On Dec. 14, the plant was slapped with another hefty fine of NT$6 million, as the city government deemed it had failed to cease the use of raw coal for power generation, and a second deadline for improvements was set for Dec. 23.
During the Dec. 23 inspection, the plant was again found using more than legally allowed raw coal in violation of the city’s coal control regulations, according to the local government.
Operations of the plant’s old No. 2 and No. 3 generators were three times found to be in violation of regulations and the authorities ordered the permits for the two units revoked, according to Wu Chih-chao (吳志超), head of Taichung’s Environmental Protection Bureau.
Meanwhile, the local government said it is still considering whether to approve the power plant’s application to extend permits for its eight remaining coal-fired generators, depending on whether legal breaches are found during their operations.
The city government also said that revocation of permits for the two generators would not create a power shortage because natural gas-fueled gas turbine combined cycle (GTCC) generators and ultra-supercritical coal-fired generators have come online over the past two years at Tunghsiao gas-fired Power Plant, mixed-generation Talin Power Plant and Linkou coal-fired Power Plant.
It is estimated these will increase generating capacity to nearly half the total capacity of the Taichung Power Plant.
In addition, even though daily power consumption in Taiwan hit an all-time high of 37.38 million kilowatts on July 17, the country still had a reserve margin of 10.08 percent, which means a relatively stable power supply, according to the city government.
When asked whether the city government’s action is based on electoral considerations, Huang Kuo-wei (黃國瑋), head of Taichung City Government’s Information Bureau, said the power plant issue is a city management issue, a national issue, a health and living issue but absolutely not an election issue.
Taipower Chairman Yang Wei-fuu (楊偉甫) said Wednesday that the revocation of the two generator’s permits would have little impact on power supply during autumn and winter, but if a generator is offline during summer, the operating reserve margin could fall by about 1.8 percent to less than 10 percent with a yellow electricity supply warning light, which represents reserve margins of between 6 percent and 10 percent.
The operating reserve margin is the amount of additional power that can be drawn from operational power plants to meet power demand if a generator goes offline.
Yang said this is the first time permits for Taipower generators have been revoked by a local government and the company will comply and cease operation of the two generators.
However, it will then seek an administrative remedy and if that fails to produce satisfactory results, the company will file a lawsuit with the administrative court.
Taipower does not discount the possibility of seeking compensation from the city government for losses caused by the shutdown of the two generators, according to Yang.
He claimed that the Taichung City government has violated the Administrative Procedure Act, Air Pollution Control Act and the amended regulations governing permit management for the operation and fuel use of stationary pollution source installations.
However, Changhua, Nantou, Miaoli, Hsinchu, Yunlin and Chiayi county governments on Wednesday expressed support for the move by Taichung City.