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Roundtable of municipal and corporate leaders

The Global Offshore Wind Summit kicked off in Taichung with a roundtable meeting of mayors and global leaders. Organised by the ECCT’s Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), together with the Taichung City Government, the half-day event brought together key local government officials, around 20 representatives from LCI member companies involved in the wind energy industry, and other stakeholders to discuss how to increase cooperation and make further progress in the development of the offshore wind industry in Taiwan. The event began with opening remarks by Taichung Deputy Mayor Yang Chiung-ying, ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo and GWEC CEO Ben Blackwell.

Government representatives at the meeting

  • Yang Chiung-ying, Deputy Mayor, Taichung City Government
  • Lai Ching-mei, County Councillor, Changhua County Government
  • Huang Chih-chun, Director, Industry Business Development Department, Miaoli County Government
  • Chiang Yen-teng, Township Mayor, Fuxin Township, Changhua County
  • Chung Wei-cheng, Section Chief, Economic Development Bureau, Taichung City Government
  • Kuo Tien-kuei, President, Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC)
  • Chung Ying-feng, President of Taichung Port & Vice President, TIPC

Opening remarks

In her opening remarks, Deputy Mayor Yang spoke about how Taichung is part of an alliance of seven central and southern Taiwan cities cooperating with one another and the central government on developing wind energy in their cities, which are home to the best sites for wind energy in Taiwan. She cited statistics on existing onshore wind turbines in the Taichung area (59 turbines), which had already helped to reduce carbon emissions. She also spoke about ongoing efforts of the Taiwan International Ports Corporation (TIPC) to upgrade Taichung harbour for the purposes of assembling, loading and transporting foundations, turbines and other equipment for the wind energy industry, noting that many foreign companies have enquired about renting space at these sites. She added that the city would set up a single contact window for businesses to deal with wind energy matters.

In his opening remarks, ECCT Chairman Giuseppe Izzo made the point that cities of the world are already home to over half of the world’s population, consume between 70% and 80% of the world’s energy and emit 60% of global greenhouse gas emissions. He added that Taiwan is facing rising demand for energy but at the same time strong public opposition to both coal-fired and nuclear power and that it is the responsibility of leaders to ensure sufficient power, boost the economy and safeguard public health. The good news, he said is that the wind energy industry can do all three of these things at the same time.

Taiwan has the potential to become an energy transition leader by creating one of the world’s largest offshore wind energy markets. Two weeks ago the legislature passed amendments to the Renewable Energy Development Act, which increased the national target for renewable energy sources to 27 gigawatts by 2025. The amendments also give local governments more authority to set up renewable energy facilities. The chairman said that he hoped that development plans enabled by these amendments will speed up the roll-out of renewable energy capacity, in central and southern Taiwan. Besides the environmental benefits of lower emissions and cleaner air, the wind energy industry promises to create new corporate champions, thousands of jobs and multiplier effects for the economy in the cities of Taichung, Changhua, Yunlin and Kaohsiung, he added.

In his remarks, Ben Blackwell noted that central Taiwan is emerging as a regional hub for the wind energy industry. On a global basis, offshore wind energy is now competitive with other energy sources and is the fastest growing energy source, rising faster than onshore wind. Besides the environmental benefits, the industry has created a new, high tech industry sector and skilled and well-paying jobs. In addition, as experience from Europe has shown, the industry has helped to revive previously unused and decaying harbours.

Keynote presentation

In his keynote presentation at the roundtable, Alastair Dutton, Chairman of GWEC’s Global Offshore Wind Taskforce gave an overview of the offshore wind energy industry. He began by showing a global map of areas identified as ideal sites for offshore wind development (with consistent winds and shallow water). According to analysis cited by him, using just 1% of the areas identified could enable installation of 630GW of capacity.

While Europe currently has the largest amount of installed capacity, Asia is the next frontier, which will overtake Europe within a few years. Growth will be driven by falling costs, which tend to fall even more dramatically when local supply chains are developed.

Taiwan has a first-mover advantage in the Asia Pacific region. Along with the potential to develop a local supply chain, jobs tend to be created three years before the build-out of wind farms, In addition to construction jobs, the industry creates long-term maintenance jobs, given that wind farms have lifespans of 25 years or longer.

Besides having a low carbon footprint, wind energy also has by far the lowest water footprint of all current energy sources. This is becoming an increasingly important factor given the growing strain on global fresh water resources from rising populations, industrialisation, pollution and climate change.

Panel discussion

Following the presentation, there was a panel discussion was moderated by Hsiao Fu-yuan from Commonwealth Magazine. During the session, government officials and LCI members spoke about the main issues, benefits and remaining bottlenecks and obstacles to industry development: the need for a stable and reasonable policy and regulatory regime, the potential benefits of developing industry clusters, the problem of finding skilled workers, certification, insurance and finance, among other issues.

Panellists discussed the problem of Taiwan’s education system for the wind energy industry (the focus on academic theory as opposed to practical technical and mechanical skills and the unwillingness of many people to work outside). To begin to address the skills shortage, a talent centre will be set up to train technicians and other staff. The industry and local authorities are also working with local universities to develop courses for the wind energy industry.

In her remarks, Lai Ching-mei said that the local fishing industry in Changhua has been consulted and its representatives are supportive of the wind energy industry. Chiang Yen-teng also said that his community was supportive of wind energy to counter the negative effects of air and marine pollution.

Chung Ying-feng from TIPC said that he had visited Europe to learn best practices in harbour development for the wind energy industry, which he is implementing in Taichung.

In their remarks, LCI member company representatives stressed the need for better communication between the industry, local governments and local communities, to show that the industry will benefit local communities. According to Bart Linssen, ECCT Director, LCI Steering committee member and Co-chair of the Wind Energy committee, 18 years of successful onshore wind experience in Taiwan already shows that wind energy is safe and effective. It would likely gain more public support if local communities were able to invest in wind farms, just like they are able to do in Europe.

ECCT CEO Freddie Höglund made the comment that besides good communication, Taiwan needs to forge bipartisan political support for wind energy to ensure stability and continuity in regulatory policy.