Wong Chi-huey: Taiwan must commit itself to renewable energy
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
2014-05-05 06:04 PM
Late last month 48 scholars from the Academia Sinica issued a petition calling for a referendum on whether to continue construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant at Longmen. The scholars supported the idea of a referendum as a way to help resolve the long-simmering dispute between the ruling and opposition parties over the issue.

On Monday Academia Sinica President Wong Chi-huey appeared before the Education and Culture Committee of the Legislative Yuan to deliver a status report on the institution as a part of the legislative body’s review of the 2014 budget. During the session Wong noted that people are extremely worried about the safety of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and want to see the Executive Yuan get involved in rational discussions on the topic. He noted that after the Fukushima nuclear incident in Japan, Taiwan really cannot afford to overlook the promises of solar energy, which is currently the fastest growing and most technically advanced of the alternative energy sources now available in Taiwan.

Liu Shao-chen, a Distinguished Fellow in the Academia Sinica Environmental Change Research Center who also signed the petition on the referendum, pointed out to committee members that if proper action is taken to minimize total power consumption, Taiwan will not have to worry about energy shortages for at least five years. Liu said this can be accomplished by imposing an energy tax and forcing companies to reduce their carbon emissions as well as other methods. In the longer term, he said, developing solar power and other alternative energy sources will do much to solve Taiwan’s energy needs.

Wong put it more bluntly, saying that in the past ten years Taiwan has not fully committed itself to the development of renewable energy. He noted that the technology behind renewable energy continues to advance, helping to drive the price of renewable energy down. He lamented that Taiwan has not developed its own sources in this field and is entirely too dependent on imports. This is a very worrying trend as far as energy security is concerned. He argued that if Taiwan had stepped up its efforts in renewable and alternative energy sources ten years ago and worked to improve energy efficiency, it might not be facing a nuclear controversy now.

Wong added that currently renewable energy represents only 2% of the total energy consumed in Taiwan, compared to a figure of about 4% in Japan and China and more than 10% in Europe and America. Carbon emissions remain very high in Taiwan as well, he said, and the government must determine to reduce carbon emissions. He said that if renewable energy can be expanded to represent 15% of all energy in Taiwan, by 2025 the island will be able to fall back to 2000 levels of carbon emissions.

Legislator Chen Pi-han rapped the Academia Sinica group for supporting a referendum on the nuclear power plant. If the result of the referendum was in favor of continuing construction, she said, the problems that the scholars were worried about would still exist. Legislator Lu Yu-ling criticized the academics for hiding behind the imprimatur of the institution and failing to take responsibility for their own personal opinions.

Wong retorted that Academia Sinica members have said in the past that Taiwan must find a safe and proper way to handle its nuclear waste, especially after the Fukushima incident. He reiterated his claim that solar energy is currently making the fastest advances in technical areas, and it is now a relatively mature alternative energy source. Advocating more attention to the development of solar energy, he said, is a very responsible position for Academia Sinica.

Legislator Lai Shyh-bao criticized the scholars for making a political statement using the authority of Academia Sinica. Wong, however, said the issue at hand is Taiwan’s energy predicament, explaining that he does not think there is any political aspect in the group’s position.

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