TAIPEI, Taiwan Still reeling from the earthquake that rocked Taiwan last week, energy officials this week find themselves coping with temperatures in the 90s that have caused the state-run power agency to decree power rationing in Taipei and on most of the rest of the island. Despite growing demand for electricity brought on by the heat, Taiwan's fabrication facilities have been given "100 percent, all-the-time" status, as have hospitals and military installations.
The situation is worse for other Taiwan businesses, and downright miserable for its stoic citizens.
On Wednesday (Sept. 29), Taipower announced it was increasing the rationing of electricity to a total of seven hours per day for most businesses and residents. Taipower officials said the 7.6-magnitude quake, on top of the buzzing of air conditioners, had knocked out 41 percent of its available electrical capacity.
The fact that fabs are getting full power while residents sit home in the dark has drawn some criticism. "If a European government were to make such a decision there would be hell to pay," said one European analyst. "People here seem to be resigned to the fact, however."
The power rationing isn't just affecting home life. Even fab offices in Taipei are feeling the heat. "On Tuesday, the power was off and on in our Taipei office," said Alex Hinnawi of United Microelectronics Corp. "Today [Wednesday], it has been pretty stable."
Just down the street, however, a major Taiwanese software company was struggling to keep its computer network operational.
"Our network has been down for most of the day," said the company's marketing manager. "Our offices in the United States and Europe are yelling for information but I can't send it to them. It's bad, because people need to know that we may be bruised but [we are] not broken."
The lack of power has some unforeseen implications. "I work on the ninth floor," said the software marketing manager. "Everyone's afraid to use the elevators. It's a real pain to walk up and down nine flights of stairs."
Indeed, the curbs on electricity are even changing the way business is being done. "Tuesday afternoon, I decided to send my staff home and have them work there via e-mail," said a product manager at Acer Inc. "The computers at the corporate headquarters are off line, there aren't even lights. I work on the 19th floor. Do you know how long it takes us to walk up 19 floors?"
Despite the stairway trek, he added that Acer's production facilities are operating.
Not all Taiwanese IC companies in the Taipei area have suffered from power rationing. "We have our own generator," said Jerry Shen, head of R&D at AsusTek Computer Inc. "Our administration, R&D and production facility are all at the same site. Thus, we haven't suffered from the power rationing."
Taipower has established the following rationing schedule for Taiwan's industries through next week: High-voltage industries will get three days of power and then three days without between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.; low-voltage industries will get one day of no energy followed by one day with power for the same times of day. For residents and small businesses, power will be rotated across the island in seven-hour allotments.