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Lanyu's power wasters pose challenge

The China Post news staff--With power consumption on the offshore island of Lanyu exceeding the national average by a significant margin, how to tackle the electricity waste problem there has become a major challenge for Taiwan Power Co. (Taipower), the United Evening News reported yesterday, citing anonymous Taipower officials.

Lanyu receives a special privilege — its residents consume electricity free of charge. The perk is provided by Article 14 of the Offshore Island Development Act, passed at the beginning of 2002.

With this special treatment, power consumption on the island has surged. A month before the privilege took effect, consumption during peak hours totaled 856 kilowatts. A month after, however, the number rose to 1,128, with the over-consumption problem becoming worse over the years.

According to Taipower data, last year consumption per Lanyu household reached 6,533 kilowatt-hours, much higher than the national average of 3,654.

This situation has resulted in a power generation expansion by Taipower, whose losses from selling electricity to Lanyu exceed NT$100 million each year, as the island uses the more expensive diesel power generation method, officials said.

According to officials, power waste is something that must be dealt with in Lanyu, where residents “use air-conditioning like using a humidifier.”

“They leave it on 24 hours a day, even though it's not necessary,” officials said. “And many residents leave the AC on with the doors and windows open.”

In a few extreme cases, some residents consume over 20,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity over a two-month period, translating into power bills of NT$119,265 that residents do not need to pay under the law.

The figure leaves people wondering how a household could use 20,000 kilowatts in two months. According to the officials, some of these households might have illegally siphoned off electricity to hotels and hostels.

Yet according to the officials, enforcement is lax. “Typically, people who do this get their power cut off and receive heavy fines. Yet in Lanyu, people do not get fines for doing this,” officials said.

According to the officials, Taipower does not want to offend the residents of Lanyu, the storage site of low-radiation waste from the island's nuclear power plants. “Slapping fines on Lanyu residents may prompt them to stage further protests, and Taipower does not want that,” officials said.

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