Germany a model for green energy
The controversial Taoyuan liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal project recently sparked discussion on the future of Taiwan’s energy policy.
The administration of President Tsai Ing-wen aims to reduce coal-fired power and expand gas-fired power to combat air pollution. The comprehensive goal is to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 percent by 2025. Given how badly Taiwan was in the past few weeks hit by air pollution, this is a reasonable strategy.
However, critics point to the hazards that the LNG terminal poses to algal reefs and marine life.
Although the project’s potential environmental impact and air pollution are at least not directly connected, they point to a bigger picture. As energy demand continues to grow, Taiwan desperately needs a green energy transition.
The nation in 2019 generated only 5.6 percent of its total power from renewable sources. Instead of investing in fossil energies, Taiwan should initiate a green energy transition, especially since it is so dependent on energy imports.
In 2019, Taiwan imported almost 98 percent of its energy. By implementing a green energy transition, Taiwan would not only mitigate climate change, protect its environment and increase its residents’ quality of life, it would be less dependent on oil, coal and gas imports, open new business opportunities, create jobs and initiate innovation.
On Tuesday, representatives of Taiwan, the EU and private stakeholders met at the EU-Taiwan Wind Power Seminar to enhance cooperation in the offshore wind power sector. Opportunities to develop regional supply chains were discussed.
European Economic and Trade Office in Taiwan Director Filip Grzegorzewski argued that “the strong policy push for expanding wind energy makes Taiwan an interesting market and will bring more EU investment into the offshore wind market.”
The involved actors have recognized the need for a different energy policy, but why is green energy transition more urgent than ever?
First, air pollution is a constant problem in the nation, especially in central and southern Taiwan. The Taichung Power Plant is the third-largest coal-fired power plant in the world.
On March 12, Central Weather Bureau Director-General Cheng Ming-dean (鄭明典) urged people in western Taiwan to avoid outdoor exercise because of the poor air quality.
Green energy production does not only provide clean air, it also produces positive social externalities, first and foremost enhanced life quality.
Second, Taiwan is highly dependent on energy imports.
It relied on imports for 98 percent of its energy in 2019, Bureau of Energy data showed.
Potential conflicts over fossil-based energy resources and related security risks constitute a major threat for Taiwan. Given its diplomatic isolation, Taiwan should minimize its vulnerabilities as much as possible and increase its energy self-sufficiency.
Third, although natural gas is more environmentally friendly than other fossil fuels, it is still a fossil fuel, and hence, a driver of climate change.
Furthermore, the potential effects of the LNG infrastructure on the algae reef cannot be foreseen.
It is not that the Tsai administration is opposed to a green energy transition. The government has promoted solar power, and Taiwan’s nuclear reactors are to be decommissioned after their 40-year operating licenses expire.
However, Taiwan is not doing enough and still investing in fossil energies with the LNG project.
Germany can serve as a role model for Taiwan’s green energy transition.
Germany’s energy transition is rooted in its anti-nuclear power movement. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster led to the first measures to promote renewable energy.
With the passing of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act in 2000, renewable energy was prioritized over fossil-based energy. Moreover, the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster led to further measures and the decision to phase out nuclear power.
As of 2019, 46 percent of Germany’s energy production came from renewable sources, surpassing the share of fossil fuels (40 percent).
Since 2006, Germany has started to promote its energy transition as a part of its energy-related foreign policy strategy.
Bilateral energy partnerships constitute an essential element of this strategy. These partnerships initiate dialogue structures and practical, goal-oriented technical help in the conceptualization and implementation of a clean energy transition.
The first energy partnerships were launched in 2006 with India and China. Several others have followed: with Nigeria in 2008, Russia in 2010, Turkey in 2012 and South Africa in 2013.
On March 19, a global climate strike was organized by Fridays for Future. Millions of people all around the globe have recognized the dangers of fossil and nuclear energy for the climate, air and water.
If Taiwan truly wants to become sustainable, mitigate climate change and protect its environment, and offer Taiwanese clean air and water, it should look into cooperation with Germany for its green energy transition, ideally forming an energy partnership.
Taiwan has to transition from nuclear and fossil energies to renewable energies and more energy efficiency.