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Energy Waste

Hong Kong must stop burning money on subsidising households’ electricity bills

What was supposed to be a one-off measure during times of embarrassing riches has now become a permanent fixture of city’s budget

The government’s electricity subsidy has always been understood to be a temporary “sweetener”. But, having lasted almost eight years, it’s looking like permanent recurrent expenditure to many people. That’s why finance officials recently told the Legislative Council that after four rounds of the subsidy scheme, it could not be extended for “an unreasonably long period”.

The current round is set to end in June next year. The government is preparing the public not to expect this scheme to continue beyond that date.

Some lawmakers have criticised the government for being miserly. But the government is right to end the subsidy. In fact, it should not have allowed the scheme, which costs a whopping
HK$22.3 billion, to continue for so long.

It is a wasteful subsidy in every sense of the word. Introduced in 2008 and continued thereafter, it was prompted by an embarrassment of riches from the government’s massive budget surpluses. But it is a short-sighted quick fix, a confession by our officials that they have no better ways of spending valuable public resources than to hand out money.

Another reason is that those in charge of public finance hate to commit to any substantial recurrent spending items, so they prefer one-off handouts or sweeteners, which may be extended for a period of time but called off whenever it suits them.

The scheme has benefited 2.5 million people, regardless of the economic status of their households. Why should well-off and rich families receive a subsidy for which they have absolutely no need? The subsidy would have been more justified if it had targeted lower-income groups.

The electricity subsidy scheme not only shows the government’s lack of imagination at social betterment; worse, it encourages people to use more electricity at a time when we should be conserving power and using more alternative and environmentally friendly energy sources.

Every year, we produce massive amounts of waste without an adequate or effective recycling regime. We waste millions of tonnes of food, and use immense amounts of water just to flush toilets. Instead of educating the public about the virtues of conservation, energy-saving and going green, the government, in effect, tells people to consume more electricity from coal-burning plants. This is not the message we want to send to the next generation. It’s time to end the subsidy.

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Building more landfills never an option

‘Building more landfills never an option’ shows the total lack of understanding of many HK people about incineration.

30% by weight of what is incinerated remains as ash, that has to be landfilled, ad infinitum. Moreover about 10% of that ash is highly toxic fly ash that has to be encased in cement. HK food waste 3600 m3 per day is ultra wet 90% water content with a calorific value less than 2Mj/kg whereas you need 7 Mj/kg for combustion.

Our daft Govt intends to burn the food waste, meaning accelerant needs to be added making incinerators a waste of energy , not waste 2 energy facility.

Using German test data, burning 1 kg of MSW releases 1kg – 1.2kg of CO2 into the atmosphere, as well as other toxic RSP’s. Interesting that the Environment chief expects to reduce CO2 emissions here on the one hand whilst intending to increase them on the other.

Incineration requires the MSW contacts the flame for at least 2 seconds at 850 deg C – if the waste is wet the burn temperature has to be increased or dioxins can & do form.

We have no source separation of waste legislation, we have no Zero Waste policy, Mass burn mixes batteries & plastics, it is impossible to recycle items tainted by food waste. Our sewer system has such capacity that Stonecutters could handle & treat our daily food slops if industrially garburated in a matter of minutes, a fact supported by CIWEM UK but conveniently ignored by local blinkered ENB officials.

Published on South China Morning Post > Letters to the Editor, August 27, 2015

Chance to lead on energy cuts

The government has unveiled a fresh energy-saving blueprint ahead of a UN conference on climate change in November aimed at a new global treaty on emission reductions. It goes some way towards greening Hong Kong’s image in international environmental protection forums. The target envisages a cut in what is known as energy intensity – the amount needed to produce one unit of gross domestic product – by 40 per cent of the 2005 level by 2025. This is more demanding than a target adopted at an Apec regional forum of 45 per cent by 2035. In terms of the actual amount of energy used, it could cut total electricity consumption by 6 per cent compared with 2012, equal to reducing carbon emissions by about 2,340 kilotonnes.

The initiative is welcome and will boost the government’s environmental credentials. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing described it as ambitious, although critics argue that the old target was not so demanding because it allowed for energy growth amid an expanding economy.

While welcoming the government’s new plan green groups have criticised the lack of both innovation and concrete incentives for the private sector. That said, the government has introduced a basket of support measures including extending product coverage under the mandatory energy-efficiency labelling scheme, further reducing energy consumption in government buildings, offering incentives to the private sector to build more green buildings and involving the Green Building Council in retrofitting existing buildings, which account for 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions.

Given growing public awareness of the climate-change issue, officials may be counting on a positive response to a new campaign to encourage people to save energy on a daily basis. The initiative is timely, as we enter the season when air-conditioners begin to contribute heavily to energy waste. The government must try to build on last year’s achievement of support from 130 shopping malls, 1,000 offices, 142 housing estates and 80 residential blocks for a campaign to keep indoor air-conditioning at optimal levels for both comfort and economy.

Demand for energy rises with economic growth, including housing programmes and infrastructure projects. This only makes conservation more important. It is a chance for Hong Kong to take the lead and confound the sceptics.

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Reducing consumption of energy is a task for all

Hong Kong is not known for being a leader when it comes to protecting the environment. Despite growing public awareness, the city is still notorious for being wasteful. From energy consumption to waste disposal, there is much room for improvement. It is therefore good to learn that a new energy-saving target for the next decade is in the pipeline. In an interview with this newspaper, Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing revealed that the government would go beyond the existing plan for a 25 per cent reduction in energy use by 2030. The details will be unveiled within the next few months, along with a basket of measures to help reduce electricity consumption across different sectors.

It can be argued that cutting energy use by a quarter is already a tall order. But critics claimed that the target was not as stringent as it seemed, because it allowed for energy growth amid an expanding economy. It is unclear why the government would challenge itself with an even more ambitious target when the old one, based on energy use in 2005, still has 15 years to go. It may be that the previous administration erred on the side of caution and adopted a relatively mild target.

If there is room for a steeper cut, there is no reason why we should not go further. The benefits are enormous. The saving is not only rewarded with cheaper utility bills; it also helps protect the environment by using fewer resources and reducing carbon emissions. Currently, buildings account for 90 per cent of total electricity consumption in Hong Kong and contribute more than 60 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Last year, a campaign to keep indoor air-conditioning at optimal levels was supported by 130 shopping malls, some 1,000 offices, 142 housing estates and 80 residential blocks, representing a 45 per cent jump in participation rate. Last month, the chief executive’s policy address went further, imposing a 5 per cent cut in electricity consumption for government buildings in the next five years. Credit goes to the government for taking the lead. Hopefully, more commercial and residential premises will follow.

Inevitably, our energy consumption will rise as the economy grows. The demand is further fuelled by expanding housing programmes and infrastructure projects. That makes conservation even more important. To achieve sustainable living and development, concerted efforts are needed.
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Sign up for Earth Hour

earth-hourFrom the Earth Hour website:


You only have to look around our map to see that people all over the world are pledging their commitment. Join them now by signing up, and help to work towards a sustainable future. And remember to switch off your lights for Earth Hour, 27th March, 8.30pm.

Make sure to sign up before the deadline!

Earth Hour website


Plant’s waste management plan would cost less than incinerator


I refer to the report (“Sewage could be energy source, scientist says”, September 28).

While the studies of Herbert Fang, chairman of environmental engineering at the University of Hong Kong, should be encouraged, I wish to point out that the use of sewage sludge as a refuse derived fuel is not an entirely new concept. There are many operations all over the world that treat sewage sludge and use it as an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective refuse derived fuel.

At Green Island Cement, we have been working on our waste management technology, the eco-co-combustion system, for the past nine years.

We have already presented the government with our environmentally-friendly and cost-effective solution for sludge treatment. However, it has rejected our proposal and decided to construct a conventional sludge treatment incinerator in Tsang Tsui to manage Hong Kong’s growing waste management problem.

Through our eco-co-combustion system, sludge would be used as a refuse derived fuel at our cement plant in Tap Shek Kok. Sludge would be taken from Stonecutter’s Island (using existing transport containers) and further dewatering would be carried out at our site to create sludge pellets. These refuse derived fuel pellets would then be fed into the cement plant’s burner system to replace imported coal.
Together with this technology, the refuse derived fuel could replace about 40 per cent of coal currently burnt at the cement plant.

Our eco-co-combustion system pilot plant tests have demonstrated excellent emissions results, far better than the government’s best practical means.

In sum, our system offers a waste management solution that will result in an overall net improvement in air quality. All residual ash is recycled and used in the manufacturing of cement clinker, thereby further reducing the burden on landfills.

We estimate that the quantity of dewatered sludge which can be treated by our proposed facility would be up to about 2,000 tonnes of sludge per day, the same as the government’s proposed incinerator.

The capital required to install such a sludge processing facility at Tap Shek Kok is around HK$950 million.

This is a substantial saving on the government’s proposal to spend HK$5.2 billion.

It is a significant saving for the public purse.

Despite these numerous benefits, the administration has pressed ahead with its own conventional sludge incinerator proposal, without giving due consideration to our technology.

So while Professor Fang should be encouraged with his studies, we hope officials can provide a forum in which new technologies can be assessed and brought into fruition. If the government will only consider conventional technologies, any new scientific studies or advancements will prove pointless.

Don Johnston, executive director, Green Island Cement (Holdings) Limited

Call For TVs To Carry Energy Labels

Green group pushes for flat-screen televisions to show power use by law

Cheung Chi-fai – Updated on Jan 31, 2009 – SCMP

Flat-screen televisions should carry mandatory energy-efficiency labels, a green group says, as concern grows about how much power the sets use. The call comes as the European Union considers banning plasma television sets that waste energy and requiring other types of sets to carry energy-use ratings.

In the United States, a new standard measuring the power consumption of televisions was introduced in November. Sets are not given an Energy Star label unless they attain prescribed limits.

The US standard was introduced amid rising concern about a surge in power usage as televisions became bigger, with screen sizes up to 70 inches. This is coupled with rising television ownership per household, the introduction of digital broadcasting and changing viewing habits.

In Hong Kong, while televisions consume less electricity than air conditioners and refrigerators, they still accounted for about 5.5 per cent, or 547 gigawatt-hours, of aggregate power use in homes in 2006. They used more power than electric heaters, washing machines, rice cookers and clothes dryers, which accounted for 0.8 to 4.5 per cent, according to the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department.

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said televisions should be given priority to carry mandatory energy labels since they had become essential appliances in the home.

“We have seen a growth of household power consumption attributed to different sorts of electronic products at home,” Mr Chu said. “Digital broadcasting has triggered a wave of TV replacements and it is good timing to expand the labelling scope.”

He said the current voluntary energy-efficiency labelling scheme for televisions was insufficient as the products only had to meet minimum standards on standby power mode. Even so, the label’s penetration rate was just 15 per cent, meaning fewer than two out of 10 televisions had been labelled. In shops, picture quality is usually highlighted and little is explicitly stated about power performance.

The city passed a law last year requiring producers and importers of air conditioners, fridges and compact fluorescent light bulbs to report energy usage levels under a mandatory labelling scheme.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said it had yet to decide the coverage of the second batch of products in the scheme. He said the department had noted that some countries were considering plans to restrict the sales of plasma televisions, and it had also been monitoring the development of energy efficiency standards for television sets.

“We will keep a close watch on relevant developments and review the position of Hong Kong, taking into consideration local factors including market demand and availability of substitutes,” he said.

The Electrical and Mechanical Services Department also said it was still reviewing the new US standards and corresponding test procedures. It advised consumers to buy lower-wattage sets or ones with smaller screens if they wanted to save energy.

A Little Knowledge Goes A Long Way In Saving Energy

Updated on Jan 31, 2009 – SCMP

Television has long been regarded as something that no home can do without. Yet most people know little of what it costs. It may come as a surprise that TVs add more to Hong Kong’s household electricity bills over a year than any other common appliances except air conditioners and refrigerators.

Environmental activists want consumers to have more information on the energy efficiency of the new generation of larger, flat-screen TV sets. As we report today, the green group Friends of the Earth has called for mandatory energy labelling along the lines of a law passed recently covering air conditioners, refrigerators and compact fluorescent light bulbs. The United States, for example, has adopted a new TV power consumption standard and the European Union is considering tighter regulations, including calls for a ban on plasma TVs, which use more power than liquid crystal displays.

The Environmental Protection Department has yet to decide what else to bring under the new labelling scheme, but environmentalists have a point. Few households have a need for more than one refrigerator, dryer, toaster or rice cooker. What sets TV and peripheral electronic products such as video and game-players apart is the increasing occurrence of multiple sets per household. Without information on energy efficiency, consumers focus on screen size and image resolution, without knowing the energy-cost implications over a long period of time.

TV is not to be compared with power hungry air conditioners or non-stop refrigerators. But every little bit of energy efficiency helps save fuel and combat global warming. And greater awareness would help encourage other good conservation habits, like not leaving the TV on in the background when no one is watching and turning off peripheral equipment such as cable boxes and video game consoles when not in use.

Given the revolution in home entertainment, mandatory energy labelling of TV sets is a good idea. It would enable consumers to make informed choices and protect the environment.

Complaints Over Lights Double

Martin Wong, SCMP – 8 Jan 09

Complaints over lights have doubled, the environmental secretary revealed yesterday. Edward Yau Tang-wah said the number of light-pollution complaints was 82 last year, compared with 40 in 2007 and 35 in 2006. In view of energy wastage, the government would launch a consultancy study, exchange views with environmental protection groups, and assess the feasibility of regulating external lighting this year, Mr Yau said.

Greens Cite Cancer Risk in Call to Dim Lights

Peter So and Tiffany Lam, SCMP – Updated on Dec 08, 2008

More than 1,300 street lights on residential buildings are a cancer risk for residents, a green group has warned.

Friends of the Earth said it wants the government to speed up efforts to reduce their glare and, while conceding that about 600 of a total of 1,900 lights attached to buildings had been refitted with flat-glass enclosures to reduce glare, the group said that only nine had been fitted with side panels.

The group said there were still many residents suffering disturbed sleep because of inescapable lights illuminating their bedrooms.

A physiologist has said chronic exposure to night light disrupted humans’ biological clocks and damaged their immune systems.

At worst, people suffering chronic exposure were at risk of developing cancers of the breast, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, womb and cervix, Pang Shiu-fun, a retired physiology professor formerly of the University of Hong Kong, has been quoted as saying in medical reports.

According to Highways Department figures, about 1,900 streetlights are fixed to buildings in the city. Of those, about 1,300 are attached to residential blocks, mainly in Wan Chai, Central, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok.

Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Hahn Chu Hon-keung said the government had promised in September that all offending lights would be refitted within a year.

He said, however, only nine streetlights attached to buildings had been fitted with side panels. “The progress is simply too slow.” Mr Chu wondered why the government had been so slow, as the cost of light refits was minimal.

The green group recently conducted a survey on the impact of streetlights on residents. One respondent surnamed Au-yeung – an elderly man living in Wan Chai with a streetlight fixed outside his flat – said it illuminated his bedroom all night despite thick curtains. Mr Au-yeung said he hardly slept more than four hours a night and often woke up because of the strong light.

“I started with half a pill to put me to sleep. Now I have to have 1-1/2 pills,” Mr Au-yeung said, adding he had once collapsed in his living room after overdosing on sleeping pills and ended up in hospital.

Mr Chu said many residents simply put up with the glare or were confused about to whom to complain, so recorded complaints about street lighting had remained low. He said complaints could be made to the Environmental Protection Department on 2838 3111 or to the Highways Department on 2926 4111.

A Highways Department spokesman said it had received 10 complaints about street lights in the first eight months of this year, adding that the department would assess the 10 lights’ effect on residents. If necessary, it would relocate lights, refit them with complete flat-glass lanterns or install side panels.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of the green group, urged the government to speed up legislation to regulate light pollution.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said yesterday billboards with unnecessarily bright lights were “a waste”. He said the government had approached businesses about light pollution.