A Window of Opportunity for Energy transition

After coming into power in 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) amended the Guidelines on Energy Development, with the goal of ensuring energy security, environmental sustainability and social equity, develop a green economy, and to strive for a nuclear-free homeland by 2025, so as to achieve sustainable energy development. In addition to establishing the goal of a nuclear-free homeland, improving air quality was also included as an important policy plank, in response to increasing calls from the public for a reduction in coal-fired power generation.

In 2019, the DPP released an energy transition white paper, after consulting with the public since 2017 via consultations at the district level, working groups, citizen conferences, and other forms of public participation and stakeholder collaboration, to develop twenty key energy strategies, including defining the roles of stakeholders in energy transition, and the promotion of citizen power plants, energy efficiency improvement plans for various sectors, as well as the 'Renewable Energy Industry Promotion Project'. Although new governance mechanisms were developed following the energy transition white paper, it has not been possible to sidestep the political limitations. Therefore, if Taiwan wants to embark on its energy transition pathway, there is a need to break through the political limitations, so that we would be able to use the whole set of governance mechanisms to consider the following 'windows of opportunity':



1. An energy transition momentum driven by air pollution

  • In 2017, the government proposed new action plans and measures on air pollution. In comparison to the original energy transition strategy which only focused on making changes to the power composition, the 'Air Pollution Control Act' is much broader in scope to encompass the replacement of boiler fuels and the promotion of electric-powered transportation, and these strategies then work together to form a synergy between air pollution prevention and energy transition, which in fact reversed the decision to expand the coal-fired Shen'ao power plant, thereby reestablishing the coal reduction schedule in Taiwan.


2. Shaping the new electricity market

  • In 2017, Taiwan also made major amendments to the Electricity Act, in an attempt to remove the regulatory barriers that had not been rectified for the last 50 years, in particular with regards to the market structure and management systems. The reforms to the Electricity Act were made based on the principle of opening up the power generation market and electricity selling market, and targeting the electricity industry supply chain to encourage competition, though the power transmission and distribution sector would remain in the hands of the government. Finally, the government adopted the 'Green Power First' policy, which is a two stage policy amendment to first open up the renewable energy power generation industry and the renewable energy sales industry, so as to participate in the electricity market through the direct and indirect transmission and distribution of the electricity industry; and second, to deprivatize the electricity grid and establish a new electricity regulatory authority, so that the traditional thermal power industry will be free to sell its electricity in the second stage of amendment, after the first stage is completed. In addition, expanding the role of the public in the electricity market would give the added momentum for the construction of a new electricity market; where citizens would no longer just be consumers, but where they would be able to participate in the planning, development, production and consumption of renewable energy via the promotion of citizens power plants.


3. The emergence of multiple actors

  • The promotion of energy transition in Taiwan does not only occur at the level of central government policy changes, but various actors are also involved in the legislature, cities, industry, civil society and community. At the level of the central government, the Legislative Yuan has since 2016 reconvened a cross-party platform, the 'Sustainable Development Committee', and also successively established the 'Renewable Energy Promotion Association', the 'UN Sustainable Development Goals Advisory Council of Parliament', and the 'Greenhouse Gas Reduction Working Group' and other subgroups, which have since held related public hearings and promoted legislation relevant to energy transition. On the other hand, citizen groups have also advocated on energy transition issues, from being focused on nuclear safety and nuclear plant construction, to policy collaboration and the promotion of green energy communities today. In 2015, several civil groups also joined hands to establish the Energy Transition Promotion Alliance, to evaluate the effectiveness of local governments in promoting energy efficiency, and to encourage local governments to commit more administrative resources into handling energy-related issues, in addition to cooperation between citizens and relevant groups to integrate citizen power plants into the local culture, and other examples of citizen action.