Energy efficiency continues to be a key policy concern for governments and an increasing focus for business throughout the Asia Pacific.

Eli Court from Climateworks Australia recently attended the Conference on Energy Efficiency in Asia; here he shares some of the top learnings from the conference held in Taiwan last month.

Taiwan moving away from nuclear

A hot topic at the conference was the Taiwan Government’s goals to phase out nuclear energy to create a ‘Nuclear Free Homeland’.

A public backlash against nuclear energy following the Japanese Fukushima disaster in 2011 has led to the government halting construction on all new nuclear power plants (including at least one which was already under construction).

Nuclear power currently makes up 17% of Taiwan’s energy supply, with thermal power plants (burning oil, coal or LNG) accounting for 78% and renewables 4%. Taiwanese representatives talked about the need to now formulate a solid transition plan if they are to avoid the real risk of power shortages in the future.

Energy efficiency central to transition plan

In part due to this risk of shortages, the Taiwanese Government has pledged to improve energy efficiency by more than 2% per year, with a 50% improvement targeted by 2025 (based on 2005 levels).

The island nation already over-achieved its target of improving energy efficiency by 20% by 2014, achieving 22% improvement. Annual improvement is tracking at 2.48% with even higher rates of improvement being seen in the industrial sector, which is tracking at 3.93%. This last figure is significant as Taiwan’s industrial sector is a large energy user; making up one third of the nation’s energy consumption at 37% of total energy use.

Taiwan recently put in place a program similar to Australia’s former Energy Efficiency Opportunities program for large energy users. Taiwan’s program requires users who have more than 800kW contracted capacity to set up an audit system, establish energy savings goals and implementation plans and achieve an average annual saving of 1% (between 2015 and 2019). Users who do not meet this target face penalties.

There has also been a strong push for minimum standards for appliances which has been incredibly successful in encouraging the Taiwanese population to replace older, less efficient appliances with more efficient alternatives. Presenters noted that these standards have been responsible for a massive increase in the market share of the most efficient fridges from 3% in 2011 to 89% in 2014.

This focus on energy efficiency has led to extreme growth in the energy services companies industry: in 2005 the total value of the industry was just 370 million Taiwanese dollars – over a decade later the total value is 11.7 billion Taiwanese dollars.

Learnings from the US

Speakers at the two-day conference shared their own experiences and offered best practices for energy efficiency. Marc La France, a Senior Manager for the US Department of Energy, spoke about the three pillars of their local energy efficiency strategy: technology innovation, market stimulation and regulatory standards. Importantly he noted that between phases, progress can stagnate and there is a role for governments to help maintain momentum.

Mr La France also spoke about key policy considerations in evaluating national energy efficiency: the benefit of having a single government agency coordinating energy efficiency, ascertaining whether or not energy prices reflect the full value of energy efficiency and understanding human capacity and infrastructure.

These points reflect some of the key recommendations in the Australian Sustainable Built Environment Council’s Low Carbon, High Performance report which Climateworks authored and which received significant input from the Energy Efficiency Council.

Fuel insecurity driving island nations towards energy efficiency and renewables

The conference was attended by representatives from both the private and public sectors and was unique in that it not only featured prominent countries such as the US and Japan, but also small nations such as the Marshall Islands and Palau.  Many presenters spoke about the unique challenges faced in their part of the world, with fuel insecurity for island nations a common theme.

Representatives from Pacific nations spoke about how their remoteness means they are vulnerable to variable diesel fuel prices and supply interruptions. This means that despite having relatively low levels of energy usage, achieving energy security continues to be a significant challenge moving forward. Energy efficiency is seen as a key component in addressing this challenge. Taiwan faces a similar concern, with around 98% of their energy reliant on overseas imports.