What you need to know
As Taiwan grapples a looming power crisis lawmakers are coming up with creative ideas for people to help conserving electricity.
Taiwan’s No. 2 nuclear power plant was expected to generate electricity this summer. However, after scheduled maintenance, a problem occurred during re-commissioning on May 16, leading to a prolonged shutdown. Although no further damage or pollution was reported, it is understood to be the first time one of Taiwan's nuclear power plants has been shut down immediately following its annual maintenance.
An investigation team is examining what caused the shutdown, and the restart date remains unclear. There is concern that Taiwan is heading towards an electricity shortage crisis as temperatures start to hit record highs.
Lee Shih-guang (李世光), minister of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA), says that if the extreme temperatures that Taiwan has experienced in recent weeks continues, electricity supply could be tight.
State-owned Taiwan Power Co (Taipower) announced it had just 1.64% of operating reserves on May 31, meaning that demand on the electricity system that day was almost as high as capacity. This was the lowest operating reserve seen in the past decade.
Premier Lin Chuan (林全) says that with several large power plants retiring in the past two years, the lack of electricity will be even more serious next year.
Lin says the No. 1 nuclear plant, which has not been in operation for more than a year, could resume operations under certain conditions.
The MOEA's Lee says the ministry will only consider resuming operations at the No. 1 plant after all possible measures are taken to improve demand-side management.
Chang Ching-sen (張景森), a minister without portfolio, has suggested that shopping malls should adjust their opening hours to avoid wasting electricity, especially from 1 pm to 3 pm when there are fewer customers. Described as an "afternoon break" for department stores, the suggestion has drawn wide criticism from the public.
On the PTT bulletin board, where thousands of Taiwan netizens debate social issues, most people were dismissive of Chang’s proposal. Some pointed out that industrial consumers dominate power consumption and suggested Chang should target technology companies rather than shopping malls.
Lin later clarified that the Executive Yuan has no policy of asking shopping malls to change their hours. Instead, the premier has called on the public to spend more time at public spaces, like libraries, instead of turning on air conditioners at home.
Taipower earlier this week announced it would invest NT$400 billion (US$12 billion) to develop renewable energy projects over the next 15 years. It plans use more than 80% of the budget to build offshore wind farms and 300 wind turbines on land, even though the limited land available for such projects has caused social conflict in recent years.
Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party plans to phase out nuclear energy, which currently supplies roughly one quarter of the nation's power supply, by 2025.