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January, 24, 2017

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Lawmakers OK wide-ranging amendments to Electricity Act

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Lawmakers completed the third reading of draft amendments to the Electricity Act which promise to liberalize the market and terminate nuclear power by 2025.

The lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party outvoted their opposition colleagues, adopting the revisions to a law that has not been revised for five decades.

The revisions stipulate that all present nuclear power plants must stop running by 2025, turning Taiwan into a "nuclear-free home."

The revamped law also gives priority to the distribution of renewable energy. Generators of renewable energy will also receive preferential rates, and small generators of green energy will be exempt from having to prepare operating reserves.

The monopoly of the state-run Taiwan Power Company (Taipower) will also break up.

Currently all electricity generated by the private sector must be sold through Taipower, but the revised law stipulates that renewable energy will be allowed to be sold to users directly from generators within one to 2.5 years of the passing of the law.

The state-run firm will also be privatized six to nine years from now, and a holding company will be set up, under which there will be two separate entities, one for generating electricity and the other for distributing it.

An electricity trade platform will be founded, and the central government will establish an electricity price stabilization fund to prevent drastic price fluctuations.

Following the third reading of the revised Electricity Act, Economics Minister Lee Chih-kung said the electricity prices will remain unchanged in the first half of 2017 despite rising fuel costs, as it will take some time to recalibrate the pricing scheme for electricity supply.

He said the amended Electricity Act is "most crucial" for Taiwan to become a"nuclear-free home," and to encourage the development and use of renewable energy.

Lee said he had promised to have the Electricity Act revised within one year of his taking office in mid-2016, and he was glad that he managed to keep his promise.

Bureau of Energy Director General Lin Chuan-neng said a total of 30 new by-laws would have to be made to implement the amendments.

But Lin said an electricity price evaluation committee and two others would be set up in three to six months.

Whether electricity prices would be adjusted would not be determined until the price evaluation committee is set up, Lin said.

But some environmentalists earlier in the day argued that Taiwan should not rush to change the Electricity Act, as it did not see power shortages at present.

The law must not be revised until all the controversies have been fully discussed, they said.

One of their representatives, Pan Cheng-chung, said the changes as they stand could let Taipower become a "big monster" dominating the electricity market, benefiting big businesses and increasing electricity charges for ordinary people.

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