The Once and Future King Coal

Nine out of 10 units at the Taichung coal-fired power plant are operating at high capacity.

Along with shutting down all the nuclear power plants, a key goal of Taiwan’s ongoing energy transition is the reduction of coal in the power generating mix to 30%. Unfortunately, Taipower’s data show that as power demand increases, Taiwan has few other options than to rely even more heavily relied upon coal. Nearly all of Taipower’s self-owned coal-fired units and its network of IPPs (Independent Power Producers) are operating at near to full capacity, including nine out of 10 of the 550MW coal-fired units at the notorious Taichung Power Plant.

The actual condition of Taipower’s reserve margins remains unclear.  Natural gas power is the usual go-to when capacity gets tight, but with most combined cycle units already operating at near or even above capacity, they have little more to give.

Pumped storage, which makes up 2,600MW of reserve capacity, was brought into play on May 13, with nine out of 10 units generating power, but even these were not enough to stave off power outages. With the drought continuing unabated and reservoirs declining daily due to evaporation, Taipower is facing an inexorable loss of capacity.

Taipower’s 800MW unit 3 at the Linkou coal-fired Power Station is also down for maintenance, along with coal-fired IPP Mailiao unit 3.

Yeh Tsung-Kuang, National Tsing-Hua University Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Science, disclosed in an interview that the Atomic Energy Council has approved the restart of Maanshan NPP3 unit 1 nine days earlier than scheduled. The unit is currently down for annual maintenance but is being returned to service early to compensate for the energy shortfalls. Kuosheng NPP2 unit 1 will be shut down permanently by the end of May, a consequence of the intransigence over Taiwan’s nuclear spent fuel storage.

With little hope for any offshore wind capacity coming online before the end of the summer peak, solar’s obvious temporal limitations, and LNG importation facilities at full capacity, it looks like Taiwan will be increasingly dependent on coal to power its economy.

What this means for Taiwan’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint will be examined in a later post.

It’s going to be a smoggy summer in Taichung this year.

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