Taiwan's ocean energy potential finds itself in a bureaucratic maze

Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia, Taipei 0

Source: Eco Wave Power

As Taiwan races to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets, a growing focus has shifted to the vast, untapped resources of its surrounding waters.

Ocean energy, encompassing technologies that harness the power of waves, tides, and ocean currents, holds immense potential to contribute to the island nation's clean energy transition. However, experts warn that navigating the complex web of regulations and stakeholder interests remains a significant hurdle to unlocking this blue energy bonanza.

At the recent Ocean Energy Industry Development Forum 2024, government officials and academic leaders convened to address the challenges and chart a path forward for this emerging sector. They offered a suite of advice, including establishing a centralized, one-stop shop for ocean energy permitting, integrating existing ocean usage data into a comprehensive spatial planning platform, and implementing proactive community engagement strategies.

Wang Mao-cheng, Director of the Department of Marine Resources at the Ocean Affairs Council, laid bare the regulatory obstacles that have stifled the growth of ocean energy in Taiwan. Under the current framework, "the core issue is the fragmented approval process that requires developers to obtain permits from multiple government agencies. This often leads to lengthy delays."

Wang also touched on the complexities surrounding local government jurisdictions. There are areas where clarity is lacking, necessitating further refinement and consolidation. Information disclosure is a collective responsibility of administrative units.

Wang highlighted the need for transparency in renewable energy development. He stressed that the application process shouldn't burden the industry players. He proposed setting up a unified review platform, allowing various regulatory bodies to collaborate and streamline maritime planning. This would create a single access point to simplify the application procedure.

Traditional uses of maritime areas encompass shipping, fisheries, national defense, oil and gas extraction, and tourism and recreation. Nonetheless, the emergence of renewable energy in recent years has added complexity to how these areas are utilized.

While Wang proposed administrative coordination and integration led by the Energy Administration at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Chou Kuei-tien, Director of The Risk Society and Policy Research Center at National Taiwan University, cautioned that the regulatory challenges are only half the battle. He argued that fostering social acceptance and community engagement will be equally vital to the long-term success of ocean energy projects.

"The lack of transparency and proactive communication has often led to social resistance, as we've seen with offshore wind development," Chou noted. "Developers need to work closely with local communities, address their concerns, and ensure that the benefits of these projects are equitably shared."

Taiwan's ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 has placed renewed emphasis on diversifying its renewable energy mix. While the island nation has made significant strides in bolstering its solar and wind capacities, experts believe that ocean energy has the potential to play a crucial role in this green transformation.

To fully harness this potential, policymakers need to streamline the regulatory framework, enhance data transparency, and foster inclusive stakeholder engagement.