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A Balance Between Energy Supply and Demand

Moderated by ITRI’s Vice President and Senior Technology Expert Ren-Chain Wang, this panel focused on energy supply and demand. Panelists included ITRI executives as well as renewable energy suppliers, machinery manufacturers, and electricity traders, who discussed low carbon/zero-carbon energy use and innovative technologies for boosting energy efficiency.

Wang first identified two inevitable developments in the journey to zero emissions by 2050: One is electrification, for instance, shifting fossil fuel vehicles to electric mobility; the other is the prevalence of renewables, which will see wind and solar power replace fossil fuel as the baseload sources. A major goal for Taiwan is to reduce carbon emissions per kWh from the current 0.5 kg to 0.05 kg, or even to zero.

When talking about demand, ITRI’s Deputy General Director of Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories Ming-Shan Jeng emphasized the importance of green buildings, stating that buildings are one of the largest carbon emission sources, accounting for 38% of global carbon emissions. “Zero energy buildings could be constructed by the optimization of building design, equipment functionality, energy storage, renewable energy, and energy management and control,” he explained. “With a clever combination of power-saving and renewable energy technologies, the building could generate approximately the same amount of power it consumes in a year.”

For renewable energy supply, offshore wind power developer Swancor Renewable Energy Chairman Lucas Lin remarked that the primary way to realize the net zero emission goal is to decarbonize the electricity sector. He said that one GW generated from offshore wind power can help Taiwan cut down approximately two million tons of carbon, which is a significant amount. “If we can set up a complete offshore wind power industry cluster, Taiwan could become the hub for offshore wind power technology and services in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Solar power company Motech Industries President Fred Yeh said that solar power generation in the Asia-Pacific region will become more cost competitive than coal-fired plants by 2025. Unlike traditional PV modules that work best only when exposed to direct intense sunlight, Motech Industries’ N-type technology can generate high efficiency and gain more power in low light environments and effectively improved the rate of return on investment.

Hydrogen energy, which is regarded as the ultimate clean energy, has also gained attention in recent years. ITRI’s Deputy General Director of Green Energy and Environment Research Laboratories Hou-Peng Wan pointed out that Taiwan’s fuel cells are an advantage in the hydrogen economy supply chain. “We can encourage the semiconductor industry to generate electricity with leftover hydrogen via the fuel cells and power for production processes to create a circular economy,” he said.

ITRI’s Industrial Residual Hydrogen Energy System generates electricity with leftover hydrogen from production processes.

ITRI’s Industrial Residual Hydrogen Energy System generates electricity with leftover hydrogen from production processes.

There are companies developing hydrogen energy technologies early in Taiwan. Chung-Hsin Electric and Machinery Manufacturing Corp. Chairman Yi-Fu Chiang stated that his company reforms methanol to produce hydrogen and has developed hydrogen-production equipment, fuel cells, power modules, low-power vehicles, refueling stations, and smart microgrids.

Wind, solar, and hydrogen energy are intermittent renewables that require a robust and flexible power grid to support them. Professor Chih-Wen Liu from the Department of Electrical Engineering at National Taiwan University noted that a power trading platform was launched by Taiwan Power Company in 2021 to provide ancillary services in power systems or grid operation due to the increase in the percentage of renewable energy connected to the grid. A virtual power plant (VPP), he said, can also enhance decentralized energy management and grid resilience as it includes demand response, energy storage systems, and non-utility generation. ITRI also established a VPP technology verification and demonstration platform that gathers resources such as solar power, storage equipment, water chillers, and fuel cells.

Taiwan’s largest qualified trader Ancillary Power Scheduling Services CEO Chi-Wen Cheng indicated that an increasing number of clients are aware that VPPs can improve the stability of the power supply via weather and load forecasts and power dispatch optimization and allow users to bid through Taipower’s energy trading platform. He added that a VPP involves many domains and requires innovative applications from different areas, and ITRI can consolidate the technologies needed to create an ideal VPP.

Finding the perfect balance between energy supply and demand is crucial. Simply requesting supply to keep up with demand or suppressing demand to fit supply are not the best solutions. Through this session, it is thrilling to see how new technology improves energy efficiency/conservation and the use of renewable energy to achieve a zero-carbon future.