東海大學生命科學系 林惠真終身特聘教授、國立臺灣師範大學生命科學系 李壽先研究講座教授、中央研究院生物多樣性研究中心 劉小如退休研究員、國立東華大學自然資源與環境學系 許育誠副教授 、國立成功大學生命科學系 李亞夫教授、國立臺灣師範大學生命科學系 許鈺鸚教授、國立成功大學生命科學系 許祐薰助理教授、國立臺南大學生態暨環境資源學系 許皓捷副教授
Develop Green Energy in Appropriate Places
NGOs and Scholars Welcome the National Property Administration's Decision to Withdraw Plans to Develop Areas of High Ecological Sensitivity
Recently, the Taiwan Wild Bird Federation joined with other local civic organizations and numerous academics in opposition to the development of a photovoltaic solar farm in the vicinity of Tainan City's Jiangjun Saltpans (original joint statement here). In response to this, the National Property Administration (NPA) called a meeting with representatives of the Bureau of Energy under the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MOEA) and the Taiwan Endemic Species Research Institute (TESRI) under the Council of Agriculture (COA) as well as non-governmental organizations to discuss the matter. During the meeting, the NPA reconsidered areas formerly used for the salt industry in Chiayi County and Tainan City which TESRI now consider to be areas of high ecological sensitivity, later passing a resolution revoking permission to place photovoltaic installments in these areas. The NPA also withdrew its consent to further develop the Jiangjun Saltpans for solar farms and said the deposit for the project would be reimbursed without interest. The signatories of the initial joint statement welcome this proactive stance by the NPA for valuing and protecting biodiversity. This is not just because it will preserve the wintering habitat of thousands of waterbirds, but also because it shows that the Executive Yuan takes into account environmental sustainability while promulgating its green energy development policy.
The saltpans in Chiayi County and Tainan City are crucial habitat for wintering and transiting migratory waterbirds. In terms of both number of species and individuals, they represent ecological hot spots in Taiwan. They also serve as critical habitat for numerous globally threatened species such as the Black-faced Spoonbills and Nordmann's Greenshank. It was with this information in mind that TESRI, when doing an inventory of ecological resources in Chiayi County and Tainan City's saltpans, created a system establishing areas of low, medium, and high levels of disturbance in regards to development green energy projects for the Executive Yuan's reference. During the Executive Yuan's 2017 "Photovoltaic Energy Two-year Promotion Project" meeting, it was decided that photovoltaic development must avoid areas of high ecological sensitivity. The controversy surrounding the formerly proposed project at the Jiangjun Saltpans highlights that the 2017 decision was not brought to the attention of the NPA, which led to this situation. As a side note, aside from the case surrounding Jiangjun Saltpans, there are still 21 photovoltaic project applications waiting for review in the areas of Chiayi County and Tainan City.
Fortunately, the NPA has been proactive in its approach and has now determined that it will not allow for further development of photovoltaic projects at Chiayi's Budai Wetlands or the Jiangjun Saltpans in Tainan City's Qigu Area. They have also revoked prior consent for the development of a photovoltaic project initially given for the Jiangjun Saltpans. Furthermore, state-owned land which has already been adopted by conservation groups for its ecological importance will not be permitted for photovoltaic projects. Lastly, if there are areas where plans have already being drawn up to for placement of a photovoltaic farms in the future, the information will be placed online for public inquiry.
It should be reiterated that the country's green energy development should not be based on sacrificing important ecosystems and nature areas. While considering where to develop photovoltaic energy sites, the first consideration should be avoidance of areas with high ecological sensitivity, followed by steps to reduce impacts, create mitigation measures, and develop compensation plans. It is also a positive development that the MOEA and the COA are now facing up to the current lack of a review mechanism for potential sites with the establishment of an "Environmental and Social Review Mechanism". It is hoped that through scientific evaluation and the participation of local people, the green energy sector, our precious natural places, and society as a whole will be able to benefit. However, before the aforementioned environmental and social review mechanism is fully implemented, it is hoped that central government agencies and local governments will no longer approve any green energy projects that could negatively impact areas of high ecological sensitivity or lead to social injustice. As long as the government remains open and communicates in a transparent manner with the people, the TWBF and civil society as a whole will be more than willing to provide information and participate in talks to assist the national green energy industry in accelerating its development in appropriate locations.