Taiwan Plans Solar Power Boost in Push to Become Free of Nuclear

  • Cabinet discussed two-year solar power development plans today
  • President Tsai wants to be rid of nuclear power by 2025

Taiwan is aiming to more than double solar-power capacity in the next two years as part of a longer-term policy to see greater use of the energy source following a vow to support green energy industries and get rid of nuclear power.

The government wants by June 2018 to expand solar by 1.52 gigawatts from current levels on the way to achieving capacity of 20 gigawatts by 2025, according to a statement following a cabinet meeting on Thursday. The policy is being pushed by President Tsai Ing-wen, who was elected in January in part on an anti-nuclear power platform.

Nuclear power currently accounts for about a fifth of Taiwan’s electricity generation. Tsai wants to replace that with renewable energy sources by 2025, at which time the island wants to declare itself “nuclear-free.” 

Strategies to achieve the goal will include using solar panels on the rooftops of public buildings and constructing solar-power stations on polluted land, according to the cabinet.

Solar Installations

Taiwan installed 220 megawatts to 240 megawatts of solar power in 2014 and 2015 and may maintain that pace this year, Yvonne Liu, a Beijing-based analyst from Bloomberg New Energy Finance said. As of June, solar power capacity totaled less than 1 gigawatt, falling short of the government’s previous 2015 target of 1.12 gigawatts, according to data from state-run utility Taiwan Power Co. and the energy bureau.

Solar targets have been missed in the past and a shortage of land poses a challenge, Liu said.

Domestic financial firms are starting to stake out their positions. Cathay Life Insurance Co., a unit of Taiwan’s largest listed financial holding company, said last month that it will pay as much as NT$1.6 billion ($51 million) for a stake in a solar power company. Chailease Finance Co., a top-three owner of solar power plants in Taiwan, is planning to sell bonds, some of which will be backed by power purchase agreements with Taiwan Power.

Neo Solar Power Corp., Cathay Life’s partner in the solar project, closed unchanged today. Motech Industries Inc., Taiwan’s biggest solar cell maker by market value, rose 1.3 percent.

Despite the government’s ambitions, homegrown producers of solar cells and other suppliers remain weighed down by a global supply glut of solar products.

Solar Glut

Benchmark solar cell prices have fallen for 16 straight weeks, extending historic lows, according to data from PV Insights. Vendors have sold products below cost as demand remains weak and inventory keeps rising, EnergyTrend said Sept. 1.

Expansion in Taiwan’s capacity will only be a drop in the bucket for the market.

“The sentiment is positive but it’s limited to help ease the oversupply among
local manufacturers, which still should focus on a global presence,” said Jennifer Liang, a Taipei-based analyst from KGI Securities Co.

— With assistance by Yu-Huay Sun, and Feifei Shen

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