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President Ma holds press conference to outline his energy policy

President Ma Ying-jeou convened a press conference on the morning of November 3 at the Presidential Office to unveil his energy policy. The president announced that the lifespans of the First, Second, and Third Nuclear Power Plants will not be extended, and that all safety requirements will be satisfied at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant, which is currently still under construction, before it is commissioned. The president added that if the two generating units of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant both come online and operate stably prior to 2016, the First Nuclear Power Plant will be decommissioned ahead of schedule.

The president stressed that the government intends to gradually reduce nuclear power, provided that in doing so it will not have to implement power rationing, will be able to maintain reasonable power prices, and will be able to fulfill the ROC's international pledge to reduce carbon emissions. In addition, once the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is commissioned, the government will conduct a comprehensive review every four years in a proactive, pragmatic, and responsible effort to gradually move Taiwan towards becoming a nuclear-free country.

Also attending the press conference were Vice President Vincent C. Siew, Secretary-General to the President Wu Jin-lin (伍錦霖), Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義), Minister of Economic Affairs Shih Yen-shiang (施顏祥), Atomic Energy Council Minister Tsai Chuen-horng (蔡春鴻), National Science Council Deputy Minister Chen Cheng-hong (陳正宏), and the Ministry of Economic Affairs' Bureau of Energy Director General Jerry J. R. Ou (歐嘉瑞).

Below are the remarks made by the president at the press conference:

Surrounded by water on all four sides, Taiwan is subject to frequent typhoons and situated in an earthquake belt. Taiwan relies on imports for over 99% of its energy needs. Consequently, we face a more challenging situation in our energy policy than other nations do. In particular, even the slightest adjustment to energy policy can have considerable impact on power demand, the environment, and industrial development. Energy policy must therefore consider issues beyond just domestic power supply, carbon emissions, and industrial competitiveness. We must also consider the increasingly tight global supply of energy resources, volatility in energy prices, and international political trends, as all of these issues impact energy supply. And we cannot attempt to evade this challenge. As a result, the formulation of energy policy must be carried out based on comprehensive and across-the-board considerations, and with thorough and prudent judgment. We have held 10 briefing conferences since the beginning of this year up to last month in preparation for me to explain our energy policy today. Our objective is to ensure that the policy we unveil today can meet the aforementioned needs.

To begin with, Taiwan's first three nuclear power plants will be decommissioned on schedule. The entire world has reviewed nuclear energy policies since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11. The ROC is no exception. Furthermore, Article 23 of the Basic Environment Act requires the government to establish plans to gradually achieve the goal of becoming a nuclear-free country. Consequently, we must be proactive, pragmatic, and responsible in our attitude and offer up a package of policies that address the issue of nuclear power. In other words, our vision for energy development requires that we "ensure nuclear safety, gradually reduce reliance on nuclear power, and create a green power and low-carbon environment to gradually become a nuclear-free country." In addition, under the three major principles of "no power rationing, maintaining reasonable power prices, and making good on our pledges to the international community to reduce carbon emissions," the government will implement proactive measures to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions in order to gradually reduce reliance on nuclear energy.

The three nuclear plants now in operation will be decommissioned on schedule, and the life of these facilities will not be extended. At the same time, the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant that is currently under construction will not be commissioned unless we can be assured of its safety. Furthermore, if the two generating units of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant are both commissioned and operating stably by 2016, the First Nuclear Power Plant will be decommissioned ahead of schedule.

This policy has been adopted only after careful evaluation and a thorough consideration of an entire range of coordinated measures that will be needed to implement it. Academia Sinica in June of this year conducted a survey in which the public was asked its opinions about nuclear power here. The results showed that 77.66% of the respondents did not support extending the life of the first three nuclear plants. Meanwhile, 69.08% of the public was opposed to the idea of completing the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant but not commissioning it. The survey demonstrated that the public is actually quite level-headed in terms of its attitude towards nuclear power. On the one hand, people generally oppose immediately putting a stop to the generation of nuclear power, but on the other hand support a gradual, step-by-step reduction in our reliance upon nuclear power to supply the nation's energy needs. The result of the survey was quite similar to public opinion polls that the Ministry of Economic Affairs have commissioned over the years, and correspond exactly to the policies that we are currently promoting.

The second important principle is "safety first." The Fourth Nuclear Power Plant will not be commissioned until all safety considerations have been addressed. The highest guiding principle of this government’s nuclear energy policy is to ensure the safety of nuclear power. After the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, we immediately carried out comprehensive safety inspections of Taiwan's existing three nuclear facilities, as did other countries on their nuclear plants. We have also completed a first-phase assessment of measures and mechanisms instituted to ensure the ability of the nuclear generating units to withstand earthquakes, landslides, and tsunamis. In fact, the results of the examination indicated that our current nuclear facilities are in principle quite safe. However, in order to be able to deal with any future contingencies, we will still strengthen safety mechanisms at the plants. And beyond that, Taiwan is the first place in the world to establish a set of Ultimate Response Guidelines to prepare for beyond design-basis accidents should they occur after our safety mechanisms have been upgraded. These guidelines will prevent multipronged disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, or nuclear accidents from causing radiation leaks. In other words, we would rather sacrifice nuclear power than allow a nuclear disaster. These Ultimate Response Guidelines are extremely stringent.

With regard to the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant that is currently under construction, we have required that even more comprehensive and strict trial operations be carried out before the plant can be commissioned. In addition, supervisory mechanisms at all levels of the government, along with inspection assessments by impartial international institutions, will be applied to the plant to ensure that every aspect conforms to the "safety first" principle and the plant will operate stably. Only after these conditions are met will the plant be commissioned. At the same time, Taiwan needs to continue to train talent in the area of nuclear power. It cannot abandon training such individuals simply because the nation intends to become a nuclear-free country. We are still going to have a considerable period of time during which we will require management of nuclear power plants and therefore will need to continue to train personnel with expertise in this field.

Under what circumstances will we gradually reduce the generation of nuclear power? We must be certain that: 1) power rationing will not be required; 2) power will continue to be reasonably priced; and 3) we will be able to fulfill our pledge to the international community to reduce carbon emissions. These are the principles with which we must strictly comply as we look to gradually reduce nuclear power generation.

First, energy policy is of enormous importance to everyday lives, industry, and the environment. Even slight changes can have wide-ranging impacts, so we must adopt pragmatic and responsible policies. With this in mind, we must first consider the comprehensive impact of nuclear power policies on power supply and carbon emissions reduction targets, and forge an optimal balance. Certain variables are out of our control in making such assessments, so we must avoid rushing into introducing overly idealized plans. Any policy must be both pragmatic and responsible; only then will we aggressively promote it.

Over the past three-plus years, the government's policies on energy conservation and carbon reduction have yielded considerable achievements. The amount of energy Taiwan requires to produce one unit of GDP is gradually on the decline, dropping at an annual average of 2.72%. Consequently, over the past three years energy conservation has helped to save Taiwan NT$300.7 billion. This is really exciting. Meanwhile, the amount of CO2 emissions generated in the creation of one unit of GDP also continues to fall, by an average of 4.11% annually. This gives us greater confidence that we will be able to achieve our pledges to the international community. Over the past three years, Taiwan's CO2 emissions have been reduced by a total of 68.07 million metric tonnes, which is equivalent to the annual CO2 absorption of 180,000 Da-an Forest Parks. Even with Taiwan's strong economic recovery last year, carbon emissions still fell by 4.28% from the previous year. We can see that significant progress is being made, from the government down to the private sector, in terms of reducing carbon in the energy blueprint and gradually improving energy efficiency.

As part of this initiative, the Taiwan Power Company is promoting measures aimed at encouraging the public to reduce energy consumption. Consequently, over 12 terawatt-hours of power have been saved over the past three years, which is equivalent to the annual energy use of three million households. At the same time, we have completed other energy conservation and carbon reduction measures. For instance, in eastern Taiwan a network of some 867 kilometers of bicycle lanes has been established. Meanwhile, development in other areas has been outstanding, and we are among the world's leaders in certain fields. For example, Taiwan is second in the world in output of solar cells, while it is fifth in the world in the density of solar-powered water heaters installed. It is the second country in the world, behind only Singapore, to begin replacing all the bulbs in traffic signals with LED lamps. These accomplishments played an important role in Taiwan's ranking in the green technology portion of the 2010 World Competitiveness Yearbook, in which Taiwan placed sixth in the world and second in Asia .

Taiwan will implement two major strategies with regard to creating a green energy environment, including energy conservation and carbon reduction, and low-carbon energy resources. As for the first strategy, we need to hasten the adjustment of Taiwan's industrial structure, strengthen energy management efficiency in the industrial sector, and advocate lifestyles that focus on cutting back on the use of power and reducing carbon emissions. Toward that end, we are promoting the "four conservations," namely conservations of electricity, fuel, water, and paper. We also have set our sights on creating low-carbon housing divisions and low-carbon cities. The offshore Penghu County is one place that has already begun pushing this initiative.

Furthermore, the government has already completed important legislation related to energy conservation and carbon reduction, such as the Energy Management Act and the Renewable Energy Development Act. In the future, the government will promote legislation of a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act and Energy Tax Act in order to effectively reduce power demand and reduce power usage at peak periods.

In terms of low-carbon energy resources, Taiwan will make every effort to promote renewable energy. In addition to having the legal framework, we still require even more proactive policies. Two initiatives—erecting 1,000 wind turbines onshore and offshore, and the million solar roof project—are examples of this. The former focuses on promoting wind generation through the use of turbines located along the shoreline and in waters near the coast. Offshore turbines yield better results, but both will require thorough environmental impact assessments before construction. The other project refers to installing solar cells on roofs or other surfaces. At the same time, we also want to promote appropriate use of natural gas, establish smart grids, develop low-carbon and highly efficient power systems, and bolster R&D capabilities in terms of new energy sources and power-saving technology. Together, these efforts will ensure power supply and effectively reduce carbon emissions. At the same time, we will seek to foster development of Taiwan's power industry. Taiwan already is a world leader in the information and communications industry. Our objective is for Taiwan also to become an increasing global force in the green energy industry.

Lastly, we intend to be very pragmatic, proactive, and responsible in moving Taiwan gradually towards becoming a "nuclear-free country." The law requires it, so we must comply. A review of nuclear energy policy will be carried out every four years once the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant is commissioned to determine whether a reduction in nuclear power generation would result in power rationing, would cause power prices to rise to unreasonable levels, and whether Taiwan would still be able to fulfill its international pledges to reduce carbon emissions. These policy reviews will also focus on the developmental status of renewable energies. Depending on the findings of such reviews, we will decide what the next step shall be. This is an extremely important mechanism.

We cannot shirk our responsibility and simply resort to slogans. We must take action, but this action must proceed step by step. Taiwan is an island and we rely on imports for 99% of our energy needs. In addition, we have no continental neighbor from which we can purchase electricity. These are challenges that other entirely nuclear-free countries have not had to face. As a result, we must adopt very prudent measures as we seek to avoid power rationing, maintain reasonable power prices, and fulfill our long-term pledges to the international community to reduce carbon emissions, as well as realize the demands of the Basic Environment Act. This is our pragmatic, responsible, and proactive attitude.

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