Episode Description

With Taiwan’s three operational nuclear plants likely to be decommissioned over the next decade or so and the fourth plant set to be mothballed, Taiwan is now facing the question of how it will secure its energy supply in the coming years.

Recently about fifty Academia Sinica academicians pushed the government to start the hard work of answering that question. They signed a joint statement calling for a public referendum on the fourth nuclear plant.

If we do good research it’s quite reasonable to expect that solar energy can take care of nearly all of what we need so the energy future is not as gray or dark as we imagine.

Guest: Visiting Fellow at the Research Center for Environmental Changes at Academia Sinica, Dr. Shaw Liu. He’s also one of the signatories to the document.

In the interview we discuss how Taiwan should go about finding the right energy mix along with the strong potential of renewable energy sources.

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It’s just like the development of semi-conductors. When they first came they were bulky, they were expensive, but now they are much faster. They’re not just a hundred times faster but a million times faster, and probably a thousand times cheaper, and I think solar energy will follow a similar path.

Recommended Reading
  • You can find the text of the petition here on the Academia Sinica website. They don’t have an English version, but this Taipei Times article gives the gist. Worth mentioning: While the major demand of the petition is a public referendum on the fourth nuclear plant, but Dr. Liu said that another major goal of the petition was to encourage Taiwan to have a serious conversation that considered all of its energy options.
  • Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey recently made the case for the government doing more to support solar energy to the Legislature’s Education and Culture Committee.
  • Here’s a commentary piece originally published in the China Times which makes a lot of the same points that Dr. Liu made in the interview, and expands on his point about the importance of energy saving.
  • Here are two recent article that give a sense of the government’s current goals and priorities for Taiwan’s future Energy production mix, one quoting remarks from President Ma, another from the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Two notable quotes from the MOEA: 1) “The ministry is promoting an optimal energy mix that it hopes will include 10 percent of energy sourced from renewable sources by 2030.” 2) “At present, alternative energy sources such as solar and wind farms are incapable of maintaining a stable power supply in Taiwan, the ministry said.”
  • Here’s a Wall Street Journal article from the pro-nuclear energy end of things, that is very critical of the decision to moth-ball the fourth nuclear plant. The author of this articles essentially writes off renewable energy as an alternative to nuclear power: “If all four [nuclear] plants are taken offline, the government estimates, electricity prices would jump 40 percent from additional imports of coal, natural gas and oil. Renewables such as solar and wind, which today produce less than 2 percent of Taiwanese power, would be of little help.”
  • Some background on the recent politics surrounding nuclear energy.
  • The Commercial Times is not terribly optimistic about the outcome of a national energy conference aimed at ensuring a stable supply of electricity for the island’s future to take place around the end of August.

**This list is intended for anyone trying to learn more about this week’s topic. If you feel like I missed something, please let me know in the comments, and if it seems relevant I’ll add it in. Since this interview mostly made the case for strong support of solar energy in Taiwan, I’d be especially interested if anyone could find a smart paper detailing the drawbacks of solar energy (my above sources don’t do a great job on that score).

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