As Taiwan progresses toward its goal of 20% of power generation from renewable energy sources, the shortcomings of solar and wind are becoming increasingly evident. Solar power requires vast swathes of land, a precious commodity in Taiwan, and offshore wind is costly and environmentally disruptive. Both are also intermittent, generating large amounts of power when conditions are good but at times dropping to zero.
Some experts suggest that Taiwan’s concentration on solar and wind power is causing it to neglect other forms of renewable energy – including geothermal, biofuels, and ocean power – that could offer even greater advantages. Technical difficulties account for much of the lack of development of alternative energies, but some of the holdup is policy related.
The government’s 2025 deadline for the elimination of nuclear power is fast approaching, and Taiwan will need to replace not only its nuclear power but also a significant amount of coal-fired power generation. It therefore requires proven sources of renewable power that can be deployed in large scale within a short timeframe.
“This is a big change and the time is very tight,” notes Lee Chun-li, deputy director general of the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs. Considering the challenges facing Taiwan’s energy supply, “the current policy [emphasizing solar and offshore wind] is the most realistic,” he says.
Nevertheless, advocates for geothermal, biofuels, and ocean energy argue that Taiwan should also be looking more seriously at other options that could eventually offer great potential.