China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
June 24, 2016
Executive Summary: During late May Taiwan was on the verge of power rationing. The Executive Yuan considered restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant. But DPP legislators and anti-nuclear groups voiced strong opposition. As a result that plan was shelved. According to meteorological experts, this year will be an “Anti-El Nino” year. A long, hot summer is inevitable. Brownouts are probable. The new government has clearly failed to think things through. Once power rationing is imposed, serious political and economic consequences will follow.
Full Text Below:
During late May Taiwan was on the verge of power rationing. The Executive Yuan considered restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant. But DPP legislators and anti-nuclear groups voiced strong opposition. As a result that plan was shelved. According to meteorological experts, this year will be an “Anti-El Nino” year. A long, hot summer is inevitable. Brownouts are probable. The new government has clearly failed to think things through. Once power rationing is imposed, serious political and economic consequences will follow.
Less than two weeks after the new government took office, a heat wave struck Taiwan. Reserve transfer capacity plummeted. On May 31, it fell to a mere 1.64%. Power rationing almost became necessary. More recently, temperatures have soared. Transfer capacity rate has fallen to 3-5%. Fortunately annual maintenance was completed in time to avoid brownouts. But the situation remains troubling. Taiwan already faces power rationing. That is no longer even in doubt. Premier Lin Chuan was being honest when he said "This year and next year will be the most difficult".
If the Number One Nuclear Power Plant is restarted, estimates are that the equipment transfer capacity will increase, from 1.5 to 1.7%. Frankly that is not enough to eliminate brownouts. But at least it will reduce the amount of power rationing. Nevertheless DPP legislators and anti-nuclear groups continue to voice strong opposition. The consequence has been brownouts caused by ignorance.
People were intitally skeptical of the DPP's energy policy. But Tsai Ing-wen repeatedly assured them that there would be no power shortages. When Minister of Economic Affairs Roy S. Lee took office, he met with the business community. He thumped his chest and also promised them there would be no power shortages for the next two years. These promises are still ringing in our ears. But Taiwan already faces brownouts. Once power rationing becomes a reality, trust in the new government will collapse. People will remember the solemn promises, repeated again and again, broken within a few short months. They will wonder what other promises the new government intends to break? Once the public loses faith in the new government, the political consequences will render it impotent.
The economic consequences will be even more serious and far-reaching. If power rationing is imposed, manufacturing and commerce will be affected. In the short term, manufacturing output and economic output will be reduced. But this is a relatively minor problem. The truly serious, hidden impact, will be to private investment.
Business investment must consider the investment environment. An abundant and stable power supply is one of the most important considerations. As TSMC Chairman Morris Chang noted, "TSMC cannot afford power shortages for even one minute". TSMC is hardly the only industry that cannot afford power shortages. Traditional industries and high tech industries alike cannot afford random interruptions of power during the manufacturing process. If sudden brownouts or blackouts occur during the manufacture of semi-finished products, they will be completely destroyed. Manufacturers will suffer huge losses. Orders and shipping will be delayed.
Last year Morris Chang publicly expressed concern for the future of power generation on Taiwan. Recently Lin Chuan revealed that TSMC, Google, and other major companies are building their own power plants. These companies say they have confidence in the new government's ability to solve problems. But the fact that they are building their own power plants is clearly a vote of no confidence in DPP energy policy. Otherwise why go to all the trouble and spend all that money to build privately owned power plants? TSMC and Google are large scale enterprises. They have the financial resources to build their own power plants. Most other companies lack this capability. In the event of power shortages, all they can do is suspend further investments.
Amidst the global economic downturn, Taiwan faces trade and economic marginalization. Cross-Strait relations have also deteriorated. Private investment is already low. Add to that the risk of power shortages, and additional private investment is unlikely, to say nothing of foreign investment. Investments are falling. Economic growth is sluggish. The new government's plans to create jobs and boost staff salaries will remain a rosy dream. This will seriously impact the future of Taiwan's economy.
Politicians and pressure groups who insist on a nuclear free homeland, who are strongly opposed to restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant, also ignore the impact brownouts will have on their agenda. When the power supply is ample, a majority of the people may support a nuclear-free homeland. But when power shortages make their lives miserable, undermine the economy, and take away their jobs, support for a nuclear-free homeland will evaporate. Political advisor Chang Ling-chen put it bluntly. "If power rationing is imposed over the next two years, the private sector anti-nuclear movement will collapse".
Regarding “civilian oversight” of power generation, the government should consider the matter carefully. Some people have accused Taipower of "hiding generating capacity". This is highly unlikely. But in order to dispel any remaining doubts, the government can release more information. It can commission credible experts to provide oversight. But it must not pander to populist sentiment by implementing "civilian oversight". Still less should it include individuals with axes to grind, and who lack professionalism. Doing so would would demoralize Taipower, making the power supply problem even more intractable.
To avoid brownouts and reduce their political and economic impact, to prevent the collapse of public support for a nuclear-free homeland, we suggest restarting the Number One Nuclear Power Plant. This will alleviate our immediate plight. The government should also increase power transfer capacity as soon as possible. It should accelerate the construction of new power plants and renewable energy. The timetable for the decommissioning of nuclear power plants need not be changed. But it should be adjusted depending on overall power supply and demand. This is probably the least risky and most pragmatic approach for the ruling party, for Taiwan society, and for the economy.
2016年06月24日 04:10 主筆室