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Hong Kong green group blasted for ad on LED screen

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Rethinking a bright idea

South China Morning Post – 17 Sept. 2011

The government wants to phase out energy-sapping traditional light bulbs, but the alternative isn’t as friendly to the environment – or your health – as some say

It could be lights out for Thomas Edison’s light bulb.

Moves are being made around the world, including in Hong Kong, to ban incandescent bulbs on grounds they fail to meet today’s standards of energy efficiency. Many see the old-fashioned light bulb giving way to the compact fluorescent lamp, or even the light-emitting diode (LED).

These would-be replacements come with some complicated shadows. Compact fluorescent lamps contain toxic substances – bad for the environment and possibly your health. And LEDs are expensive.

Compact fluorescent lamps  undoubtedly save energy. They are as much as 80 per cent more efficient than incandescent bulbs. The fluorescents have become big sellers, their costs cut by mass production. At about HK$30 each, a compact fluorescent lamp will save enough energy to cover its purchase price in a year, according to environment officials.

That is part of the government’s argument for a proposal released last month to outlaw the supply of incandescent light bulbs of 25 watts or above if they fail a minimum energy efficiency standard.

But each compact fluorescent bulb contains 2 to 5 milligrams of mercury. People should limit their exposure to 1 microgram, or a thousandth of a milligram, according to widely accepted recommendations, says Ron Hui Shu-yuen, chair professor of the department of electrical and electronic engineering at the University of Hong Kong.

“Energy saving is not equal to environmental protection. If the environment is to be truly protected, air, soil and water all have to be covered,” said Hui, an award-winning researcher in lighting science.

If the lamp does not break, the mercury might not present any danger. But when shattered, it could pose serious health risks, Hui said.

“If it breaks, the first thing to do is to run away from it and open all the windows to improve ventilation. Don’t go near it for at least 15 minutes as the mercury will vaporise in higher temperature. The vaporised substance can easily find ways into your lungs and blood vessels and damage the central nervous system,” he said.

Hui said some officials refused to acknowledge the hazards by insisting the mercury level was too low to cause any impacts on health. But  increasing scientific evidence suggests otherwise.

According to a recently published article in Environmental Engineering Science, a broken compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL, can continue to  release mercury vapour for more than 10 weeks at a level that is a health concern for people. The research, conducted by Li Yadong and Li Jin, associate professors in the department of civil and environmental engineering at Jackson State University in Mississippi, is one of the original studies on the release of the toxic substance from a broken lamp. Eight compact lamps of four different wattages were tested. The mercury volumes contained in each of the sampled lamps ranged between  0.17mg and 3.6mg.

The scientists found that up to  86 per cent of the mercury could be released as vapour after the lamp was broken. In the worst case, it could take up to 128 days for all the mercury to escape fully into the air. The newer the lamp, the more mercury it could potentially release.

“The emission can last for weeks or even months,” the study said, “and the total amount of mercury that can be released in vapour from new CFLs can often exceed 1mg. Since vapour mercury can be readily inhaled by people, rapid removal of broken CFLs and sufficient ventilation of rooms by fresh air are critical to prevent people from potential harm.”

Citing another study in 2008, the researchers say the release of 1mg of mercury vapour into a 500 cubic-metre room can expose a child to   10 times the recommended limit.

Hui said the potential hazards could be even bigger in Hong Kong, where most indoor environments were sealed, no effective system for collecting used lamps was in place, and warnings and education on the safe handling of the devices left much to be desired. These lamps easily break when people throw them out in their building or on the street. There are no measures in place at landfills to prevent the release of  vapours and workers who collect rubbish are often unprotected from the hazards.

“I have told the government to start monitoring the blood of these workers who face a high risk of mercury poisoning, but apparently no one has listened,” Hui said.

At present, a chemical waste treatment plant in Tsing Yi is responsible for recycling the used lamps. It can handle about 400,000 fluorescent lamps a year. But that capacity fell far short of demand, Hui said. A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the city currently had 900 collection points at residential estates and about 130 points in other places and it would continue to expand the network.

On its website, the department stresses that the amount of mercury in the lamps is small and unlikely to affect your health when they are broken. But the department does warn people not to vacuum pieces of a broken lamp and to use gloves to handle them. Pieces should be placed in sealable plastic bags for normal disposal.

Hui said the claim that fluorescent lamps were 80 per cent more efficient than traditional light bulbs needed to be placed in context. The amount of energy saved was tied to the lamps’ longer lifespan – up to 8,000 hours, he said. But in fact, improper use of the lights will often lead to early expiration. Hui said heat generated by the lamp could shorten the life of its capacitor, especially if the lamp was installed with it glass tube pointed downward.

The energy that went into making each lamp, including mining the heavy metals and making the circuits, also had to be considered  when thinking about the device’s efficiency.

Despite the drawbacks, Hui says fluorescent lamps are a key transitional product for saving energy before other devices – cleaner and greener – became widely available and affordable. But better measures are needed to govern the production and recycling of the lamps.

While the government is consulting the public about phasing out the older light bulbs, it is at the same time offering sizeable funds through the Environment and Conservation Fund to charities to encourage people to switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs or LEDs.

One of the charities, the Tai Po Environmental Association, last year distributed more than 20,000 compact fluorescent light bulbs to residents. Dr Yau Wing-kwong, an appointed district councillor who runs the association, said it had taught people about properly disposing of the lamps. “We believe there needs to be more publicity on responsible disposal,” he said.

Blackout woes for plants in Dongguan

city-in-blackoutLast updated: April 7, 2010

Source: South China Morning Post

Severe drought results in power rationing

The devastating drought in the southwest is forcing once-a-week blackouts at Dongguan factories due to power shortages from the nation’s hydroelectric dams.

Since April 1, Hong Kong manufacturers say power supplies have been suspended one day each week in Dongguan, and some expect the mandatory rationing will spread to industrial towns in Shenzhen.

Several factory owners said they were left with little choice but to generate their own electricity through diesel-powered generators, a dirtier and more expensive alternative.

Some warned that the supply crunch could balloon into a crisis next month, when the peak-production season begins. This would exacerbate recent challenges such as labour shortages, soaring raw material costs and wages, a possible appreciation in the yuan and weak demand in the United States and Europe.

“The export sector improved obviously in the first quarter, but new challenges come from all fronts now,” Toys Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong vice-president Yeung Chi-kong said yesterday. “Some costs such as electricity are rising so fast and are beyond our control that it will be lucky if a factory doesn’t lose money.”

To keep production lines moving, Yeung, who is also vice-chairman of toy exporter Blue Box Holdings, said the company’s factory in Dongguan was forced to produce its own electricity, which cost 30 per cent more than power from the state supplier.

He estimated that higher fuel costs, together with about a 21 per cent rise in the minimum monthly wage in Dongguan to 920 yuan (HK$1,046.70) and at least a 20 per cent jump in prices of plastics and paper-packaging materials, would in turn jack up overall operating costs by 5 per cent.

This would erode the factory’s wafer-thin profit margin, he said. “We are trying to pass the extra costs on to customers, but so far they are bargaining extremely hard,” Yeung said.

The once-in-a-century drought ravaging Yunnan, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces has hobbled hydropower plants, which have reduced electricity supplies to Guangdong by about 23 per cent in the first three months of this year.

Electricity from the western provinces supplies about one-third of Guangdong’s power needs.

The Guangdong provincial government placed priority on supply to residential users, and discouraged consumption by energy-consuming industries such as electroplating and cement and steel production. The province signed agreements last month with Hong Kong supplier CLP Power (SEHK: 0002), which will export more power across the border, particularly in summer.

Wilson Shea Kai-chuen, a premium product manufacturer in Dalong in Shenzhen and vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Small and Medium Enterprises Association, said he expected compulsory power blackouts would begin in a few weeks, when the busy season begins.

He said that on April 1, state supplier China Southern Grid recommended factories in Dalong suspend operations a day every week or minimise power consumption.

Dennis Ng Wang-pun, the managing director of exporter Polaris Jewellery, said electricity supply in Panyu in Guangdong remained normal but warned that the electricity crunch would come on top of labour shortages.

His factory in Panyu, which has about 400 workers processing jewellery, was still short of about 100 workers, Ng said. He said new orders improved in the first quarter from the same period last year, at the height of the global financial crisis, but shoppers’ appetite remained weak.

“I don’t see a marked improvement in demand in the US until the second half,” he added.

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


Residents Struggle With Glare As Light Pollution Spreads To Tseung Kwan O

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Updated on Mar 16, 2009

Light pollution has spread to the outskirts of the city, with hundreds of residents complaining about glare from excessive advertising lighting at a recently renovated shopping mall in Tseung Kwan O.

Residents of Yan Ming Court have been doing everything they can to block the light from the signs on the Metro City shopping mall, which faces the residential block.

Some have been keeping their curtains closed, and one resident has taken the extra step of placing a board next to his bed to block the light that still manages to seep through.

Local politicians and representatives of the green group Friends of the Earth have received numerous complaints since September last year, when the mall placed 12 brightly lit sign boards, each measuring about five storeys, around the mall.

The new fixtures replaced a collection of advertising banners that had been illuminated by spotlights.

When the mall was trying to find clients to rent the boards, the lights were left on until midnight. The mall eventually decided to switch them off at 11pm, but residents still found the glare too bright and wasteful.

“Some of the boards are located in places where few shoppers pass by,” Sai Kung district councillor Ng Ping-yiu said. “No one would ever look up at the boards when they are walking under them. The only audience is the residents who have to live facing them.”

Mr Ng said complaints had been filed with the Environmental Protection Department, though little could be done because there were no laws governing such lighting.

After repeated complaints, Henderson Land Development, which owns the mall, agreed to switch off the boards at 10.30pm. It also said it would consider decreasing the intensity of the light, though no changes have been made.

Mr Ng said he was worried that other malls in the district might adopt the mall’s lighting system as competition for shoppers intensified. He said he was hoping that a system for consultations and stakeholder meetings could be set up so residents and developers would have a chance to talk whenever new signage was being planned.

Cheng Sze-ling, environment affairs officer of Friends of the Earth, said the problem of light pollution was no longer restricted to developed and commercial areas such as Mong Kok or Causeway Bay; it had spread to residential areas in new towns. “Light pollution is no longer endemic but has evolved into an infectious disease across the city,” she said.

The group would organise a seminar for local politicians to help them understand light pollution and ways of handling it, she said. It would also publish a guide on the subject.

In response to press inquiries, a spokeswoman for Henderson Land Development said the company had studied dimming the glare by cutting the number of lights and would follow up on the findings shortly.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Department said the department had received eight complaints regarding light nuisances relating to Metro City mall. He said officials had been sent to the scene and had spoken to the mall’s owner to minimise nuisances.

“We have encouraged them to adhere to this arrangement and to consider using lamps that were less bright,” he said.

LED Street-Lighting In Finland

Golden DRAGON LEDs in first LED street-lighting in Finland

Semiconductor Today

After extensive testing, the Levi ski resort in Kittilä is to be the first district in Finland to install LED street-lighting.

The system comprises 64 Starium Dragon 60 luminaires from EasyLed Oy, each equipped with 60 Osram Opto Semiconductors Golden DRAGON LEDs fitted with oval lenses (3840 LEDs in total). The LED street-lamps consume just 41W, cutting energy costs for the local authority and, together with minimal maintenance requirements, leading to a payback period of just 4.5 years, it is reckoned.

“We were particularly persuaded by the excellent color rendering [with a color temperature of 5600K, similar to natural light], the vibration resistance of the light sources, and the freedom to create any luminaire designs thanks to the small size of the LEDs,” says EasyLed’s product development director Mika Nummenpalo. “The stability of the luminous flux and the ideal distribution of light with no scatter – and therefore no light pollution – were key factors in the decision to install LEDs,” adds Ari Tiilikainen, a lighting designer at Lite-Design. “Thanks to sophisticated thermal management, we were able to give the luminaires a modern low-profile design, as requested by the local authority,” he adds.

“The Starium Dragon 60 offers the best luminous efficacy and therefore the greatest potential savings,” reckons Jari Kinnunen from the Technical Department in the Kittilä authority.

LEDs Light Up Jing Jiang City

Osram’s Golden DRAGON LEDs light up Jing Jiang City

Semiconductor Today

Osram Opto Semiconductors says that its Golden DRAGON LEDs are lighting up a major thoroughfare of Jing Jiang City in the Jiangsu province of China.

Jiangsu Hua Jing Photoelectronics has installed fourteen 8m-high prototype 180W LED streetlights containing Golden DRAGON LEDs in a pilot project to replace traditional 250W HID (high-intensity discharge) lamps. Based on Hua Jing’s tests, the Golden DRAGON based-street lamps offer energy savings of more than 37%, together with an improvement in night visibility.

Currently, there are about 8000 street-lights in Jing Jiang city and its development zone. Getting the new LED lamps approved in Jing Jiang will be a combined effort of the government and the local community, working closely with Jiangsu Hua Jing. China’s Ministry of Science and Technology is pushing to replace traditional incandescent lighting with more energy-efficient LEDs, and targets RMB260bn in energy savings by 2015.

“China is leading the way with its commitment to energy-efficient lighting solutions, and LEDs are increasingly recognized as the best light source to meet this commitment,” says Dr Alfred Felder, president & CEO of Hong Kong-based Osram Opto Semiconductors Asia Ltd.

Tax Break Set For Electric Vehicles

February 25, 2009 – Environment

The First Registration Tax exemption for electric vehicles will be extended five more years to promote their use. The exemption is due to expire March 31, but will be extended five years instead of three years as in the past.

In his 2009-10 Budget today Financial Secretary John Tsang said promoting the use of vehicles which are more energy efficient and emit no exhaust will create business opportunities.

He will lead a steering committee to study their wider use in Hong Kong, conduct in-depth studies and make recommendations from the perspectives of economic development, town planning, industry, technology, environmental protection and transport.

The Government will study the feasibility of jointly promoting electric vehicles with manufacturers, and be actively involved in testing them to introduce them into the local market early.

“We will also consider introducing such vehicles into the government fleet when the related technology has matured and the vehicles are available on the market,” Mr Tsang said.

The Government will study the feasibility of providing recharging facilities in public multi-storey car parks and explore ways of encouraging the business sector, including property developers and private car park operators, to set up such facilities.

Saving energy

Noting buildings account for 90% of Hong Kong’s total power consumption, Mr Tsang said the Environment & Conservation Fund will allocate $450 million for private building owners to conduct energy- carbon audits and energy efficiency improvement projects. More than 1,600 projects will be subsidised.

Another $450 million will be allocated to conduct minor works in government buildings in the next two years to install energy-efficient lighting, retrofit plumbing with water-saving devices and incorporate energy-efficient features in air-conditioning, elevator and escalator systems.

Going green

In the coming year Greening Master Plan projects undertaken by the Civil Engineering & Development Department will cover the whole of Hong Kong Island and urban Kowloon.

Landscaping features will be provided on 500 old slopes and greening work on the rooftops of 40 government buildings through additional funding for minor works. Schools and other non-profit-making organisations will also be subsidised to conduct greening work.

Mr Tsang said Hong Kong will co-operate with Guangdong to transform the Pearl River Delta region into a green and quality-living area with a cluster of high-tech, low-pollution and low-energy-consumption cities.

“We will further develop regional high-tech recycling industries, and encourage enterprises to adopt advanced technologies for cleaner production, energy saving and emission reduction,” Mr Tsang said, noting promoting a green economy will enhance Hong Kong’s overall competitiveness and make it a more liveable city.

Dim-it! Friends Want A Clear View Of The Stars

Friends of the Earth wants lights to be switched off on June 21 for stargazers to have a clear view of the star-studded night sky.

Monday, February 16, 2009 – The Standard

Friends of the Earth wants lights to be switched off on June 21 for stargazers to have a clear view of the star-studded night sky. The green group believes there will be 200 buildings on both sides of the harbor taking part in the “Dim-it” campaign from 8pm to 10pm on that summer solstice night.

The group will hold the event with local astronomical groups.

Telescopes will be placed on the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui. Other activities include a photo exhibit of stars, a lighting competition and a show on pollution caused by city lights.

“In the long run, we hope the government can set up protected areas for stargazing in country parks so that people do not have to go to the Science Museum to gaze at artificial stars,” International Year of Astronomy 2009 president Leung Kam-cheung said yesterday.

Leung said the sky in the city is 40 times brighter than the suburbs at night, adding that the city glare hinders stargazing. He said more energy used means more particulates emitted by power generation, which also adversely affects astronomical activity.


Dim It Event Plans Longer City Blackout

Tiffany Lam – SCMP – Updated on Feb 16, 2009

Those who scoff at the idea of spotting constellations from light-washed Victoria Harbour may be proved wrong on the city’s biggest lights-out night in June, a green group said yesterday. Last year’s Dim It campaign, the largest lights-out event in Hong Kong with more than 140 landmark buildings participating, would be repeated with redoubled vigour on June 21, Friends of the Earth said.

Besides stretching the event to two hours, the green group will also invite astronomy clubs to provide telescopes to the public on the Avenue of Stars in Tsim Sha Tsui.

Constellations such as Virgo, Libra, Scorpius, Sagittarius and Ursa Major (the Big Dipper) – usually washed out by the city’s light pollution – were visible from both banks of Victoria Harbour when the lights went off for an hour last year, dimming the harbour by 32 per cent, Friends of the Earth said.

“We estimate that more than 200 buildings will participate this year, and we hope more homes will turn off their lights too,” group director Edwin Lau Che-feng said.

“It’s a great feeling to witness the familiar constellations emerging when you can only see a few stars usually,” Leung Kam-cheung, head of International Year of Astronomy 2009 Hong Kong League, said.

Mr Leung appealed for more enthusiasts to bring out their star-gazing gear on that night to give people a chance to see the stars. The league’s last sidewalk event attracted up to 10,000 star-gazers and more than 80 telescopes, he said.

More lights turned off, for a longer period, should increase the visibility of stars this year, although visibility also depended on air pollution and weather conditions, Mr Lau said.

This year’s Dim It event coincides with the summer solstice, the longest day in the year. “It is a time when energy use peaks, and it gives Hong Kong citizens a time to rethink [their lifestyle],” he said.

He urged the government to speed up light-pollution legislation.

Friends of the Earth urged companies that took part last year, turning off their billboard and building lighting, to do so again and invited more corporations to join this year.

One and Two IFC, Bank of China Tower and the Legislative Council building all participated last year.

The nightly Symphony of Lights show, hailed as the world’s largest by Guinness World Records, will halt for Dim It, said Mr Lau, who described the blackout as an “alternative tourist experience”.

The sidewalk star-gazing event on the Tsim Sha Tsui promenade will be enlivened by photographic exhibitions and live performances, and is expected to draw up to 10,000 people. Dim It will start at 8pm.