Taiwan has broken record in electricity consumption for two days straight as the island reels under the oppressive heat of this summer. Anticipating that electricity demand will continue to climb, Taipower reactivated the first coal-fired generation unit (here referred to as the No. 1 Coal Unit) of the Taichung Power Plant late at night on July 14 and reconnected it to the grid in the morning of the next day. The public utility stated that ramping up the capacity of the power plant is necessary to ensure an adequate supply of electricity.
Since the start of July, a stifling heatwave has caused both the temperature and electricity demand to soar across Taiwan. The daily electricity consumption of the entire island has now reached a historic high twice in mid-July, hitting 37.528GW on July 13 and then shattered that record with 37.79GW on July 14.
Currently, Taiwan’s electricity supply with its reserve margin kept at the “green” level of around 10% seems to be sufficient to meet the summer demand. However, Taipower is worried about the daily high temperature reaching a new extreme as well as emergency events that could threaten the functioning the entire grid system. Aside from these potential challenges, Taipower is also preparing for the scheduled summer maintenance of several gas-fired generation units. Hence, the decision was made to end the maintenance of the No. 1 Coal Unit of the Taichung Power Plant earlier than originally planned and return it to normal operations. The No. 1 Coal Unit had been offline for inspection and repair since the time of the Dragon Boat Festival.
Taipower pointed out that the generation unit is in excellent condition following maintenance and meets all the emission standards set by the local and central governments. The utility also stated that putting the generation unit back to work is critical to the stability of the electricity supply during this summer.
The Taichung Power Plant currently has 10 coal-fired and four gas-fired generation units. Two of the gas-fired units just entered service after undergoing several environment reviews in 2019. Taipower originally wanted to have the plant run six coal-fired and two gas-fired units. The remaining four coal-fired units would be suspended and serve as backup. The reason to implement this operational mode was to curb the air pollution that is spewing out of the plant’s smokestacks. However, the surge of electricity consumption in the recent months has forced the utility to make some changes.
Taipower earlier announced that it will activate no more than nine of the plant’s 10 coal-fired units during the summer months. Now with the No. 1 Coal Unit returning to work, Taipower again repeated its latest promise that the number of the plant’s working coal-fired units will be limited to nine when the air quality is good for the surrounding area and seven when the air quality has turned worse.
Taipower added that the recent weather forecasts indicate sweltering heat throughout the island in the next few weeks. The daily peak load is therefore expected to remain at a very high level, perhaps even setting new records. The utility has estimated that Taiwan’s peak electricity consumption during this summer will reach 37.91GW. However, an upward correction of this projection is now under consideration.
As to the question whether the reactivation of the No. 1 Coal Unit will increase coal usage, Taipower has made the guarantee that the annual coal consumption of the Taichung Power Plant will not exceed 12.6 million metric tons for 2020. Looking back, the plant’s coal consumption dropped from 18.39 million metric tons in 2014 to 12.64 metric tons in 2019. According to the utility, this substantial reduction of nearly 600 million metric tons was made voluntarily. At the same time, efforts have been made to raise the efficiency of coal-fired units through proper maintenance, technology upgrades, and optimization of the dispatch scheme.
While insisting that keeping the reserve margin above 10% is paramount, Taipower is also calling on people to do their part in saving energy so as to minimize the risk of grid instability and limit the air pollution coming out of the thermal plants around the island.
(News source: TechNews. Photo credit: Chongkian via Flickr CC BY-SA.)