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Taipower reserves to drop too 10%

The latest available data from Taiwan Power Company (Taipower, 台電) indicate that reserve capacity may drop below 10 percent next year, an official from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Bureau of Energy said yesterday.

The central government requires Taipower to maintain a constant reserve margin of at least 15 percent of the normal peak demand level as insurance against emergencies.

Last year, Taipower estimated its reserve capacity at 16.3 percent, while the actual figure stood at 14.7 percent, according to latest Taipower data.

The difference was due to unseasonably high temperatures, decommissioned power plants and the gas-pipe explosions in Greater Kaohsiung, said Bureau of Energy Deputy Director-General Wu Yu-chen (吳玉珍) yesterday.

If reserve margin forecasts are revised to account for last year’s shortfall, next year the reserve capacity will be adjusted downward from 10.2 percent to 8.9 percent.

Wu was speaking on day one of the Energy Conference (全國能源會議), a Cabinet-organized public forum on energy solutions for Taiwan.

Extending Lifespan

Wu said that Taipower expects its reserve capacity to be at 9.8 percent in 2018 and decline to 5.4 percent by 2021 if the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant fails to become operational.

The estimates are based on the conditions that the controversial Fourth Nuclear Power Plant does not become operational and that Taiwan’s three live nuclear facilities proceed on schedule for decommissioning by 2025, she said.

During a report that was punctuated with protests from anti-nuclear activists in the audience, Wu called for extending operation of the three operating nuclear facilities in order to preempt a power shortage.

Wu stressed that the Bureau of Energy does not believe Taipower has doctored its forecasts by overestimating normal peak load.

Rather, the reserve capacity shortfall could be worse than forecast, as Taipower habitually underestimates actual peak load, she said.

“If we do not present information clearly, we are not fulfilling our professional responsibility,” she said.

On Alternative Sources

Between 2010 and 2014 the central government invested NT5.04 billion in research and development for renewable energies. It’s rolling out another program worth NT$38 billion in two stages, Wu said.

“We are absolutely not undetermined in the pursuit of renewables,” she said, but added that there are hurdles in the development of solar, wind, geothermal, hydro and other alternative sources.

In developing wind power, considerations include the proximity of wind turbines to human populations and the effect of these systems on the native ecology.

The option of the offshore wind farm is not yet viable in Taiwan as the technology is still immature, she said.

For solar power, a main restriction is space. Ten thousand square meters are required to generate one megawatt of power through solar panels. As Taiwan is space-poor with only so many roofs, the matter of boosting space availability is a main question in the future, she said.

In the local market, solar power still costs more (NT$4.9 to NT$7.1 per degree) than traditional power (NT$3 per degree), she said.

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