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Taiwan's renewable energy promise tested by green light to coal-fired power plant


Earlier this month, Taiwan’s environmental protection agency gave the go ahead for a new coal-fired power plant at Shen’ao, a fishing village on the north coast.

The project appears to be totally at odds with Taiwan’s own revamped energy policy, announced amid much fanfare in 2016. It included an increase in energy supply from renewable sources to 20 per cent by 2025 and a gradual reduction in coal-fired power generation within the same timescale. Last October, President Tsai Ing-wen even said Taiwan was “at a turning point in its transformation”.

The government’s own forecast shows that, if these energy ambitions are genuinely met, Taiwan will be able to meet the demand without adding to its existing coal power supply.

Watch: President Tsai announces green power targets

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There is also profound opposition to the project from environmentalists, NGOs and locals. Taipower, the state-run department responsible for development of the project, claims to have done a thorough ecological assessment, but their testing was only conducted during particular times of the year, making any assessment base incompatible. 

A survey by Greenpeace Taiwan showed 80 per cent of residents of the three northern cities of Taipei, Keelung and New Taipei said they hadn’t been consulted over the project, 75 per cent did not support it and nearly 90 per cent cited health issues as their biggest concern. 

The power plant is expected to emit the equivalent of the annual emissions of all the 1.6 million cars in Taipei and New Taipei combined.  

The Taiwan government needs to do more than just pay lip service to the promise of energy transformation. 

Lisa Tsai, coal project leader, Greenpeace East Asia, Taipei 

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