Taiwan reviewing power systems after massive blackouts

The government looks to accelerate the development of smart grids and distributed renewables power generation.

Taiwan plans to conduct a comprehensive review of its power supply systems after suffering the worst blackouts in its history earlier this week.   

The disruption of fuel supply to a major power plant in Taoyuan’s Datan Township on Tuesday caused massive outages throughout the island. All six generators, with a combined power capacity of 4.7GW, were shut down abruptly due to insufficient natural gas supplies by state-owned supplier CPC Corporation.   

The power plant, owned by state-run utility Taiwan Power Company, is the second-largest power generation facility on the island. About 7 million users in 17 cities and counties, or more than half of the island’s electricity users, were affected.

President Tsai Ing-wen said in a media briefing that the widespread outage indicated the fragility and poor management of the island’s power supply systems. She noted that it is necessary to accelerate the development of distributed renewables generation systems and diversify power sources to strengthen the stability of power supply in Taiwan. 

She added that if the problems in its power system remain unsolved, the island will be exposed to a “high risk in its systems”.

The Ministry of Science and Technology said yesterday that, in addition to distributed power sources, the government should speed up the development of smart grids and grid storage technologies, while acknowledging the geographical challenges of replacing transmission lines.

In a bid to achieve its “nuclear-free homeland” goal by 2025, Taiwan announced an energy plan in May, which aims to have 20 percent of renewables power generation in the mix over the next eight years. That target comprises 20GW of solar, 1.2GW of onshore wind and 3GW of offshore plants. 

Foreign investors have been drawn to Taiwan’s renewables markets since last year’s policy changes – Partners Group invested $200 million in a greenfield solar portfolio in July last year, followed by Australia’s Macquarie Capital and Denmark’s Dong Energy, which acquired a majority stake in a pilot offshore wind project early this year.