Taiwan outages fail to dampen nuclear clamp

China | Bloomberg 17 Aug 2017

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen publicly apologized for power outages that hit more than 6 million households and disrupted some semiconductor manufacturing while defending her policies to phase out nuclear power in favor of natural gas and renewables.

A combination of unusually hot weather, damage to infrastructure from recent typhoons and a push by Tsai's administration to abandon nuclear power left Taiwan barely able to supply sufficient electricity to residential and business users.

That balance gave way just before 5pm on Tuesday when the Tatan power plant, which accounts for almost 9 percent of the country's generation capacity, stopped after workers accidentally shut off its natural gas supply. Electricity was restored by 10pm.

There had been multiple warnings about electricity supply before the blackouts. A week earlier, state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. issued a red alert as the operating reserve margin, the difference between power produced and consumed, fell to the second-lowest on record.

Business associations including the Chinese National Federation of Industries had called for slowing the pace of closing nuclear plants.

The blackouts heightened scrutiny of Tsai's policies, including a pledge to rid Taiwan of nuclear power and cut its use of coal. The island will rely instead under her plan on natural gas and renewables.

Tsai's apology posted on Facebook included a reiteration of her determination to push forward phasing out nuclear in favor of renewable energy. "We will not change course. Today's incident only makes us more determined,"he wrote.

Nuclear made up 12 percent of Taiwan's power mix last year, down from 17 percent in 2013, according to its Bureau of Energy.

Legislation passed in January set a goal of getting rid of nuclear power by 2025, as well as lowering the share of coal to 30 percent and raising natural gas to 50 percent, with the remainder coming from renewables.

The power cut on Tuesday also hit Taiwan's Hsinchu Science Park, the heart of its semiconductor industry.

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