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Hong Kong government investigated over planning for electric car roll-out

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Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific seeks 80pc emissions reductions on some long flights with big switch to biofuels

Airline among world’s first to adopt fuels made largely from landfill rubbish

Cathay Pacific Airways has pledged an 80 per cent cut in the amount of climate-changing gases some of its longest flights pump into the Earth’s atmosphere, by betting big on biofuels.

The Hong Kong carrier will be one of the first airlines in the world to switch to cleaner jet fuels on an industrial scale.

The city is slowly strengthening its push to lessen its contribution to climate change, and the government aims to cut annual carbon emissions per person almost in half by 2030.

The aviation sector had avoided regulation until last year, when its governing body, the International Civil Aviation Organisation, agreed a global deal to curb emissions growth by the end of the decade.

Cathay Pacific planes will use fuel made from landfill rubbish. Many of its flights from the United States, where the fuel is being produced, will be able to fly to Hong Kong using a half-half mix of biofuel and conventional fuel by 2019. It is on these trans-Pacific flights that the company expects the 80 per cent emissions reductions.

“Aviation biofuels will play a key role for Cathay and the aviation industry’s quest for lower emissions,” the airline’s biofuel manager, Jeff Ovens, said. “We are on the cusp of large-scale production of low-carbon jet fuel and are eager to use it.”

The high and notoriously unpredictable cost of fuel has forced the airline to control how much it uses. By – among other things – reducing aircraft weight, flying on more direct flight paths and only using one engine to taxi on runways, the company cut emissions and paved the way for the rethink of how it could further cut pollution.

“This is where biofuels come in,” Ovens said. “These fuels will have a lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels, and the pricing we have is competitive with traditional fuels.”

Aside from the carbon dioxide reduction, using the mixed fuel avoids emissions of other harmful gases, like methane, given off as rubbish – which will instead be used as fuel – naturally degrades in landfill.

Cathay Pacific passengers are unlikely to see a rise in fares, because the biofuel investments since 2014 have been absorbed into the company’s operating costs. But it is too early to tell whether the switch could lower ticket prices.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, undersecretary at the Environment Bureau – which spearheaded the government’s 2030 climate action report – said: “I think the world as a whole has come to embrace dealing with climate change, and you are seeing major industry sectors coming forward to say they need to do more.”

But she said the lack of global rules on the production, infrastructure and supply of biofuels made long-term policymaking harder. “I think that is further down the road than we are able to make policies on,” she said.

Roy Tam Hoi-pong, CEO of Green Sense, an environmental pressure group, said the airline’s climate effort was a “good start”.

He said: “As one of Asia’s biggest airlines, they can do much more.”

Airlines occasionally test biofuels, mainly with used cooking oil, but not landfill waste.

United Airlines has started running some domestic flights on biofuels regularly, but even then in small quantities.

The airline’s new batch of Airbus A350 planes – themselves 25 per cent more fuel efficient than their forerunners – flew from France to Hong Kong for delivery using a small amount of biofuel.

The airline’s partnership with a US-based renewable fuel producer is on track to help make its flights from the US to Hong Kong International Airport, starting from 2019, greener.

Fulcrum Bioenergy and Cathay Pacific signed an agreement in 2014, helping the airline meet its biofuel supply targets, with a purchase of 375 million gallons of biofuel over 10 years.

That fuel would be enough to supply Cathay Pacific’s 76 weekly US flights to Hong Kong for six months.

Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2066549/hong-kongs-cathay-pacific-seeks-80pc-emissions

CLP Power to tap methane from Tuen Mun landfill for electricity

The company is awaiting an environmental approval for its plan to build generators on the site; project will cost “more than HK$100 million”

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2065471/clp-power-tap-methane-tuen-mun-landfill

The larger of the city’s two electricity providers will seek approval for the installation of 14-megawatt electricity generating units powered by gas at a Tuen Mun landfill to expand its portfolio of “renewable” energy projects.

CLP Power managing director Paul Poon Wai-yin said the large amounts of flammable gases such as methane, produced from the decomposition of municipal waste, could be tapped for power.

About 7,300 tonnes of such waste is dumped in the landfill at the tip of Nim Wan daily.

Poon said the waste-to-energy conversion was a better source of renewable energy than solar or wind, which required massive amounts of land and investment, adding:

“On one hand it will help reduce [greenhouse gas] ¬emissions from landfills, and on the other, help replace the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity.”

Quince Chong Wai-yan, head of corporate development, said the new facility – estimated to cost “more than HK$100 million” – would have a minimal impact on tariffs due to its limited scale.

The project’s first phase comprises five units capable of generating enough electricity to power 17,000 four-person households for one year. A second phase will add two more units to the site.

A new climate change action plan released by the government last week set new emissions reduction targets for 2030. Authorities hope to achieve this by moving away from coal-fired power generation to natural gas and non-fossil fuels.

While the plan stopped short of a target for renewables, it highlighted a “3 to 4 per cent” capacity, to be realised between now till 2030. Poon said CLP was already on the way to help meet 1 per cent of this mark.

He stressed that the phasing out of CLP’s coal-fired units over the next decade would also be discussed with the government in negotiations for a post-2018 regulatory framework, expected to be completed by the end of the administration’s term.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Frances Yeung Hoi-shan said the facility would help reduce methane emissions, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. But she said most green groups did not consider processed waste a “renewable energy” source. Yeung urged the government to require power companies to incentivise investments in sources such as solar and wind energy in the new regulatory framework.

The new action plan stated that tariffs and renewable energy certificates will be introduced as incentives in negotiations with CLP Power and HK Electric. But Poon did not provide details at a media briefing on Wednesday.

Impact assessments for CLP’s proposed units at the landfill have been completed and the company will apply for an environmental permit shortly. It hopes to begin operations of the first phase in the third quarter next year.

The Environmental Protection Department welcomed the project and said it would facilitate implementation.

Hong Kong government aims to slash carbon emissions with 2030 action plan

While government hopes to reduce total emissions by 26-36 per cent, some critics say the plans lack conviction

Annual carbon emissions could be slashed from around six tonnes per person to between 3.3 and 3.8 tonnes by 2030, according to the government’s latest climate change action plan.

But a think tank and green group believe the plan lacks hard targets for renewables and the ambition to phase out coal in the fuel mix.

The target, which will translate to an absolute carbon emission reduction of 26 to 36 per cent and reduction of 65 to 70 per cent in carbon emissions per GDP from 2005, will use a cleaner, less coal-intensive fuel mix and more energy efficient buildings and transport.

Renewable energy would also be applied on a “wider and larger scale”, it said.

Measures to incentivise private investment in renewables could be introduced in the post-2018 regulatory framework with power companies, which is being negotiated, the plan says.

Government departments are looking at installing floating photovoltaic systems on reservoirs, with two expected to be completed at Shek Pik and Plover Cove this year, and on slopes, such as at the old Anderson Quarry.

The Environment Bureau however stressed that the city did not have favourable conditions for large-scale commercial use and as such, did not set any concrete targets for 2030.

Also missing were hard targets for reducing energy use in the private buildings sector. Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said a consensus had been reached for the building sector to voluntarily reduce electricity consumption on an “ongoing” basis, with details still to be finalised.

“Overall we would like to make it a kind of pattern similar to the Paris agreement,” he said, referring to the land climate accord, which requires each individual country to work toward its own nationally-determined contributions to curb global warming and report back every five years.

Maura Wong, CEO of think tank Civic Exchange believed the plan lacked commitment. “We still don’t know by 2030 whether we will be coal-free and what the mix will be between natural gas and nuclear,” she said. “They need to be ambitious enough to set a clear date of when they will completely phase out coal.”

WWF-Hong Kong’s conservation director Gavin Edwards said: “We welcome the government’s openness to 3 to 4 per cent renewable energy, but believe that it should be a formal target and … more ambitious with at least 5 per cent renewables by 2030.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2064045/hong-kong-government-aims-slash-carbon-emissions

How China has embraced renewable energy and Hong Kong hasn’t, and what’s behind city’s green power inertia

Summer 2016 saw record heat, and health problems from air pollution are rising, yet green energy projects have been shelved or denied funding; electricity firms lack incentives to go green, WWF says

Professor Johnny Chan Chun-leung is one of Hong Kong’s most eminent climate and energy scientists, and he is a very frustrated man. This month Beijing announced it would invest 2.5 trillion yuan (HK$2.8 trillion) in renewable energy technology by 2020 to establish the nation as world leader in sustainable and clean energy, and create 13 million jobs. Meanwhile, Chan and other respected scientists in Hong Kong are struggling to obtain financial support for their green energy projects.

Whereas China embraces wind, tide, solar and wave energy as essential tools to tackle climate change and its acute air pollution, attitudes in Hong Kong appear as fossilised as the fuel that provides 78 per cent of its energy needs.

Chan, chair professor of atmospheric science at the City University of Hong Kong’s School of Energy and Environment, outlined details of an innovative tidal turbine project at a conference on renewable energy last week, organised by the city’s Business Environment Council. Chan’s team has developed a system that can generate electricity even in low tidal streams, typical of the seas around Hong Kong. Though it is early days, trials staged at the Gold Coast Marina in the city’s Tuen Mun district produced encouraging results.

He now needs funding to scale it up, with a view to offering the city a viable green energy alternative, but his application to the Environment and Conservation Fund for HK$2 million was rejected. “The ECF told me today that I ‘did not demonstrate the merits and contributions of the proposed study to environmental protection’,” he says. “How ridiculous.”

It is not an isolated incident. Others complain privately that Hong Kong funding bodies are “overly risk averse” and are rarely enthusiastic about funding green energy research and development.

“I believe more can be done to promote local funding for R&D for all renewable energy components,” says Dr Walid Daoud, a solar energy expert from City University and another speaker at the council’s conference. Many believe these difficulties are just one symptom of a wider malaise when it comes to supporting green energy in Hong Kong.

“Hong Kong performs badly in overall carbon emissions and renewable energy,” says Cheung Chi-wah, senior head of climate and footprint programmes at environmental campaign group WWF-Hong Kong. He notes that the city’s emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming have been rising steadily and are 23 per cent above their level in 2002. That was the same year the Hong Kong government published its first study of renewable energy, compiled by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department. The report estimated that 17 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy needs could be supplied by solar power alone.

It also made a key primary recommendation that the government should set targets for renewable energy’s contribution to demand of 1 per cent, 2 per cent and 3 per cent for 2012, 2017 and 2022, respectively. Nearly 15 years later, with electricity consumption rising about 5 per cent a year, the city recording record-breaking temperatures last summer, and health problems due to worsening air pollution growing, very little has been achieved. Instead of the proposed 2 per cent target for 2017, the latest data shows that the proportion of energy used in the city that is produced by renewable means is still less than 1 per cent – far from the 17 per cent potential – and the targets have not even been implemented.

Indeed, by 2012 only 2.2 megawatts of solar photovoltaic panels, capable of meeting 0.01 per cent of Hong Kong’s energy needs, had been installed.

Hong Kong is also one of the few advanced cities in the world with no feed-in tariff scheme, or “net metering system”, in place. This means that, rather than small-scale green energy producers being paid for contributing any excess energy to the grid, they can only donate it.

Energy consultant Mike Thomas, of the Lantau Group, another speaker at the council’s event, thinks it is unhelpful to compare China and Hong Kong in terms of being “behind or ahead” because of the vast differences in the two economies’ scale, resources and political systems. He also believes Hong Kong is taking the right steps by implementing the government’s new fuel mix for energy supply by 2020, which consists of about 50 per cent natural gas, around 25 per cent nuclear power and more use of renewable energy sources. Natural gas is still a fossil fuel, but 30 per cent to 50 per cent cleaner than coal in terms of emissions.

“It is true that there is very little renewable energy, strictly speaking, but given the rabid debate about the use of green space for housing, I’m not sure that converting the hillsides to solar panels would appeal either,” he says. The issue of “low energy density” (the relatively high land area needed to produce 1 kilowatt of renewable electricity) is often cited by opponents of renewable energy in Hong Kong, which, including its 263 islands, has a land area of just 1,104 sq km.

Douad calculates the city would need to cover 20 per cent of its surface area with 10 per cent efficient solar panels to meet its energy needs, yet he remains a firm advocate of solar power.

“The 20 per cent is for the actual lateral 2D land use. However, we could also consider the vertical 3D of the urban landscape, using building walls as well as rooftops, sun-exposed roads and highways, sound barriers and water reservoirs,” he says.

While delegates at the council’s conference earnestly discuss the possibilities of using renewable energy locally, most leading cities have already embraced renewables and the smart grid – the use of digital technology to improve reliability, resiliency, flexibility, and efficiency – and have coherent policies in place to foster them.

Singapore is ramping up the use of solar panels through initiatives such as SolarNova, a government-led programme, and investing in green energy research via The Energy Research Institute. The city state is already seeing positive results. Figures for 2014 show that green energy sources contributed 3.7 per cent of total energy consumption (up from 2.4 per cent in 2005) and analysts expect that figure to top 5 per cent by 2020.

Hong Kong does have small-scale solar schemes designed for local consumption, and some government buildings generate solar power, but its approach to solar energy is piecemeal.

CLP Power, one of the city’s two electricity suppliers, commissioned its award-winning renewable energy power plant on Town Island in Sai Kung in January 2010, comprising wind turbines and solar panels, to supply the needs of the island’s drug rehabilitation centre, and says it has connected about 250 small-scale local schemes.

The other supplier, Hongkong Electric, says about 70 local use renewable systems have been connected to its grid over the past 10 years. It also operates a 1MW solar plant and the only wind turbine connected to Hong Kong’s power grid.

It might be imagined that geographical restrictions and a scarcity of available land would make harnessing offshore wind, wave and tidal power – as Chan proposes – more attractive, but there is little sign of progress on any of these. Detailed proposals from the electricity companies to build offshore wind farms were awarded environmental permits, but both schemes were shelved in 2013 and mysteriously disappeared from the local energy agenda.

“We are in the process of collecting wind, wave and other environmental data, along with a review of the engineering design, to complete the feasibility study,” a CLP spokesman says of its plan.

Hongkong Electric’s proposed wind farm in waters off Lamma Island was to supply 1.5 per cent of its total output. Asked about the proposal, a company spokesman says “field wind measurement has been going on since 2012”.

Cheung says no one in the industry understands why the company needs to collect five years of wind data. He suspects the real reason for offshore wind power being dropped is that the schemes of control both power companies have negotiated with the government, which regulate their profits on operations and investment, do not offer enough financial sweeteners for either company to proceed.

The current schemes of control are due to expire by end of 2018, and the government is negotiating terms with the companies to renew them. Cheung thinks it’s “a perfect time for the government to show its determination by introducing significant targets and incentives for energy consumption reduction and [renewable energy] development”.

One of the thorny issues that will need to be ironed out is tariffs. Hong Kong has some of the cheapest and most reliable power in the world (electricity costs about half what it does in New York). Although it is widely believed that greater use of green energy is essential, there is less agreement on who will pay for the higher prices or pick up the bill for integration of an intermittent power source to the grid.

While energy costs account for only 1.6 per cent of the average Hong Kong household’s budget, there is little commercial incentive for change and little political appetite for heaping extra costs on hard-pressed families.

There is more hope than expectation that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying will use his final policy address to announce Hong Kong will follow Beijing’s lead and reveal a bold new policy for renewable energy with defined targets, a credible strategy to achieve them, and support for home-grown innovations such as Chan’s.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/article/2062467/how-china-has-embraced-renewable-energy-and-hong-kong-hasnt-and-whats

Large-scale use of solar power not feasible in Hong Kong

http://www.scmp.com/comment/letters/article/2043067/large-scale-use-solar-power-not-feasible-hong-kong

Hong Kong is facing serious air pollution, which can cause irreversible damage to our society. To cope with the problem, some may suggest the adoption of larger-scale usage of solar power. However, I don’t think that it is feasible to widely use solar power in Hong Kong.

Firstly, from the economic perspective, I think it is very difficult to instal a lot of solar panels in our city. The cost of solar power is very high, even higher than that for conventional fossil fuels (for example, coal and natural gas). That is because we have to buy not just one, but a large number of solar panels. Also, we have to rent a big flat for enough area to place the solar panels, and it will be very expensive to do so.

Moreover, we have to purchase new generating units, as we cannot possibly use the old units for solar energy. Despite its unbelievably high cost, the efficiency of converting solar energy into electricity is very low.

Secondly, considering Hong Kong’s geographical structure, I think it is difficult to use solar power widely here. Solar panels require large open areas for instalments, while Hong Kong is fairly mountainous. So it would be difficult to find open and flat spaces to place solar panels in a place this hilly.

Moreover, Hong Kong’s high population density and scarce land already makes it difficult to find enough space for living. If Hong Kong had enough space, it should be used to build public housing, which is a much more serious problem. We cannot possibly try to solve one problem if it gives rise to a worse one.

If citizens oppose the promotion of solar energy, it will surely not be feasible, and it is very unlikely that they, especially the underprivileged, will support such an idea when using solar power would mean higher electricity bills for them.

All in all, I do not think it is practical to have wide use of solar power in Hong Kong. We should be looking at other forms of renewable energy that would have a much greater chance of success.

Eiman Arif, Tuen Mun

Could this HK$300,000 hybrid taxi be the new look of Hong Kong cabs?

A new-generation taxi produced by Toyota with wheelchair access is slated to hit the Hong Kong market in the fourth quarter of next year, its supplier Inchcape announced on Thursday.

The new taxi will cost about HK$300,000 and be more environmentally friendly than typical local cabs as it is designed as a hybrid vehicle run by LPG and electricity, according to Inchcape’s mass transport deputy general manager David Lee.

“The vehicle has four seats and its rear side is equipped with an electric sliding door so it is wheelchair accessible,” he said.

Once the new taxis are launched in the city, Toyota will cease production of its current Comfort taxi model, which costs about HK$230,000.

At present, there are 18,138 taxis in Hong Kong, of which Toyota has a market share exceeding 90 per cent.

Lee estimated there were about 10,000 Toyota Comfort taxis on local roads that are over 13 years old and need to be replaced. “But there are only several thousands of this model available in the market for replacement, so we think there is a market for this new generation of taxi,” he said.

Orders for the new taxi cannot yet be placed in Hong Kong as the carmaker must wait for government approval of the importation date.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2038545/hk300000-hybrid-taxi-hit-hong-kong-market-next-year-toyota

Hong Kong electric buses pulled from the road for third time in nine months

New World Services says five vehicles encountered tyre slippage problems in wet weather; manufacturer says they are now ready for use again

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/economy/article/2038314/hong-kong-electric-buses-pulled-road-third-time-nine-months

The two-year trial of Hong Kong’s first electric buses has been suspended for the third time in nine months due to tyre problems.

New World Services Holdings, which owns franchised bus companies Citybus and New World First Bus, confirmed on Wednesday that five electric buses were recalled in mid-September after drivers and district councillors raised concerns about tyres slipping in wet weather.

This is the third time the trial has been halted since it started in late December. The five buses were the first to hit the road after the government allocated HK$180 million to purchase 36 electric buses for the city’s transport companies in a bid to improve roadside air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions from petrol-driven buses.

Registered engineer and mechanics expert Lo Kok-keung said the frequent check-ups and recalls showed the buses were “quite problematic”.

“The check-ups carried out by the manufacturer cannot be good enough, or why would the buses be recalled again and again after being recalled the first time,” he said.

According to New World Services, the manufacturer of the five recalled buses – Shenzhen-based BYD – has improved the braking system to address “occasional slipping problems’’, but the buses would only return to service again after “thorough checks”.

The five buses are running on Hong Kong Island routes 11, 12, 25A, 78 and 81.

In addition to these buses, a second batch of five electric buses manufactured by Shandong- based Great Dragon International Corporation was also recalled before they hit the road.

The bus company confirmed that they were recalled because of problems with the stop bell. This means none of the firm’s 10 vehicles are now in use.

A total of 22 complaints were received about the five buses since their launch. They were mainly about air conditioning.

Eleven cases involving malfunctions and six traffic accidents involving the five buses were recorded in the same period, but the bus company said all were “minor incidents and were not caused by mechanical faults”.

Up to last month, the first batch of buses spent 55 days with the manufacturer – or 21 per cent of the total number of days since the trial was launched.

A BYD spokesman told the Post that the five buses that were recalled went through a “software upgrading process” and were now ready for use again.

“We did not encounter tyre slippage problems with BYD electric buses used elsewhere. The problem occurred for the first time in Hong Kong ,” the spokesman said.

Another company, Kowloon Motor Bus, put one BYD-made electric bus on trial for half a year in 2013, but it failed and was returned to the manufacturer.

Hong Kong’s electric car owners still stuck in the slow lane

Despite the buzz surrounding the Formula E race in the city, ordinary drivers are being held back by a lack of charging stations

http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/2025762/hong-kongs-electric-car-owners-still-stuck-slow

The Formula E race in Central this weekend is first and foremost a world-class sporting event, but for Hong Kong residents it will bring something equally unprecedented and precious – no roadside pollution, at least along Lung Wo Road, for a couple of days.

Though the thunder will be silent, the two-time champion Renault team will defend its Formula E title by the IFC and giant ferris wheel on the harbourfront, against teams from Audi, Jaguar, DS Virgin and Venturi, which was co-founded by actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

For one weekend in Central, Hong Kong will have arrived at a new era of electric vehicles, and our notorious air quality will be temporarily cleaner. And in theory, if petrol cars are gradually replaced by electric cars, then Hong Kong will enjoy cleaner air.

“Motor vehicles are the major emission source of air pollution in Hong Kong,” Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said in a written response to the Post. “It is challenging to improve roadside air quality in a city because vehicle exhausts are trapped by buildings flanking both sides of the road.

“The high development density in Hong Kong aggravates the challenge. Electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and are efficient in converting energy from the grid to power at the wheels. Replacing conventional vehicles with electric vehicles can help improve roadside air quality.”

But the reality is not that simple, as there are issues that cause daily headaches for many electric car drivers.

A random look at the car park at Pacific Place in Admiralty during a weekday lunchtime shows the shortage of charging stations. All four standard charging docks were occupied, as were the four Tesla fast charging stations, and there was a queue of Teslas waiting.

What is worse, many private residential car parks do not allow charging stations. As the percentage of electric cars is small, owners’ associations, made up mostly of non-electric car owners, are reluctant to do the extra work involved, and certainly not to shoulder the additional costs.

The government was well aware of this and Wong said “potential buyers should consider charging arrangements before buying electric vehicles”.

But he added that the government had been taking measures to alleviate the problem. Since April 2011, developers who put the necessary electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the car parks of new buildings, including provision of sufficient power supply and wiring to facilitate future installation of chargers, would be granted concessions on gross floor area.

And in June 2011, planning guidelines for new buildings were amended to “recommend” 30 per cent of private car parking spaces be installed with chargers.

Wong said the government wanted to encourage more developers and property management companies to provide charging services. “The government has been working with the private sector, including the power companies, in expanding the electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Hong Kong.”

But is what is being done enough?

“I think the government should make it mandatory for residential car parks to have charging stations,” said Professor Chau Kwok-tong, an expert in electric vehicles at the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Hong Kong.

“It is easier for new buildings, though existing buildings with suitable electricity infrastructure should be allowed to install charging facilities. We can introduce a quota system, say a car park should be required to have 5 per cent of parking spaces with charging facilities, perhaps raising to 10 per cent in three to five years,” Chau said.

“The availability of charging facilities at home is very important to attract people to choose electric cars. If the other resident landlords are not happy to pay the extra costs, the estate management company can charge electric car owners a rent or fee to recoup the extra expenses.”

Dr Hung Wing-tat, an associate professor at Polytechnic University who teaches transport infrastructure design and development, also felt the government needed to do more to meet the growing demand for electric cars.

“At some older buildings, electricity supply may not be enough to support chargers, but setting up new facilities may be expensive. Buildings laws may need to be changed to meet the growing demand for electric cars.”

He said the appetite for electric cars would further increase as the government would soon tighten the emission standards of vehicles. “Many drivers will need to replace their cars. Electric cars don’t have emissions, so they are attractive in this aspect.”

However, Gordon Lam, chairman of the Electric Vehicle Club Hong Kong, was not optimistic that the government would step in to facilitate.

“I am acutely aware of the problem. Among our membership of about 100 who drive electric cars, 90 per cent of them do not have a charging station at home.

“Ideally the government should make it mandatory for newly built car parks to have a certain quota of spaces with charging facilities, but I think in reality this is difficult to implement, as it will involve the government confronting developers who do not want to set up the charging facilities.”

But he noted that some developers were already active in preparing the charging infrastructure, such as Hopewell, Sino Land, Wheelock, and Sun Hung Kai Properties, because it “may help to make their flats more attractive”.

There were now about 1,400 public chargers in Hong Kong, but Lam said there were problems at these stations too. “Charging spaces are often occupied by petrol cars.

There is no punishment for these unethical drivers, and often the guards simply say they can’t do anything about it.”

The most important benefit of electric cars is less pollution. But how serious is the pollution problem in Hong Kong? The environment bureau said the transport sector as a whole contributed about 14 per cent of greenhouses gases in 2013, while motor vehicles contributed about 14 per cent of local respirable suspended particulates and 20 per cent of volatile organic compounds in 2014.

Hung of Polytechnic University said a major pollution problem was the so-called canyon effect.

“Tall buildings along the roads in Hong Kong act like a tunnel and prevent the exhaust gas from petrol vehicles from dispersing. The problem is particularly bad in Causeway Bay, Central and Mong Kok.”

There are already several government measures to encourage electric cars. First registration tax is waived until March 2017, while companies that buy environmentally friendly vehicles are allowed 100 per cent profit tax deduction for capital expenditure in the first year of procurement.

By August 2016, there were 6,167 electric vehicles in Hong Kong, with 5,957 of them private cars. The figures had grown sharply from just 592 in 2013.

Dr Sammy Lee, a medical doctor, drives one of them – a blue Tesla Model S, the best-selling model of any brand in Hong Kong last year with 2,221 units. His experience shows why so many people are showing an interest.

“As a driver, choosing an electric car is all I can do to improve air quality in the city,” said Lee, who spent about HK$50,000 to install a charging station.

“The performance is great. Because there is no engine, it is really quiet, and there is much less need for maintenance. The ‘smart’ tools are also hugely appealing. My car is always connected to the internet via 3G, so it records every road and every turn it travels.”

Another perhaps unexpected benefit comes from the lack of a petrol engine.

Kevin Tsui, who drives a BMW i 3, said: “In the summer, I can keep the air conditioning running to keep myself cool even if I have parked my car, because the law to punish idling engines has exempted electric vehicles.”

The popularity of electric cars is being accelerated by new models. Tesla has just launched Model X in Hong Kong, an SUV with “falcon” doors and an impressive acceleration from 0 to 100km/h in just 3.1 seconds. The new BMW i3 has upgraded to a new battery with 50 per cent more capacity, increasing its range to 200km.

In order to reduce overall pollution, Joseph Lau, managing director of BMW Concessionaires (HK), said production of electric vehicles should not be just about power generation.

“For the electric vehicle industry to improve, it will depend on whether the industry can truly commit to a wholesome sustainability concept. For example, BMW i3 and i8 are produced with renewable wind energy in Germany,” Lau said.

“The future is bright for electric vehicles. With the progress in technology, there will be more advanced products and with a larger range and smart features.”

Chau of the University of Hong Kong said a major direction of development was wireless charging, both static and in motion.

“Instead of linking the wire to the car, the charging can be done wirelessly from a facility built underneath the car, a bit like smartphones charging wirelessly. This solves the risk that wires can carry a potential safety hazard. There are already prototypes of these.

“For the long term, the need to recharge during a long road journey is important. There is research about building wireless recharging facilities underneath the slow lane, so electric cars running on batteries can move to the slow lane and start charging away.”

But that is more for tomorrow’s world and will not be happening in Lung Wo Road this weekend.

Concrete step on cleaner fuel

http://www.thestandard.com.hk/section-news.php?id=172942&story_id=47015608&con_type=1&d_str=20160818&sid=4

The first contractor in Hong Kong to use B5 biodiesel in its batching plants and equipment said it has cut carbon dioxide emissions by 5,529 tonnes between 2013, when it started using the cleaner fuel, and the end of last year. The reduction is equivalent to one person taking 5,119 return flights between Hong Kong and Melbourne.

Gammon Construction is the first and only company in Hong Kong that uses the environmentally friendly B5 biodiesel in all of its plants, road vehicles and equipment, such as excavators, in its railway, housing, airport, bridge and other project sites.

Emma Harvey, manager of Gammon’s group sustainability and corporate social responsibility, said using B5 biodiesel also helps reduce landfill waste aside from cutting carbon emissions.

“Another benefit in its use is reducing waste oil that will end up in landfills,” she said, adding B5 biodiesel use has enabled Gammon to reduce its diesel carbon emissions by about 5 percent.

Gammon has also brought B5 biodiesel to retail filling pumps in Hong Kong with its fuel partner Shell. Last November, they introduced this clean fuel to a petrol station in Tsing Yi. Next month, a second petrol station near the airport will offer B5 biodiesel.

Last year, about 15 percent of Gammon’s land vehicles, mostly mixer trucks, used B5 biodiesel. They consumed about two million liters of B5 biodiesel last year.

Gammon procurement head Susan Siu Kit-ling said: “B5 biodiesel costs 30 HK cents more per liter [than ordinary diesel], but this can be offset by reduced usage with the higher efficiency of this fuel type.”

She said Gammon undertakes from time to time planning studies on construction equipment, aimed at reducing diesel consumption.

Siu said waste oil comes mainly from local food producers or grease trap waste, oil and grease separated in wastewater. Gammon only imports waste oil if local supply is not stable. Waste oil helps produce B5 biodiesel. More than 95 percent of Gammon’s timber and plywood requirements for form work carry Forest Stewardship Council and Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification. These wood types have a shorter life cycle and have less adverse impact on the environment.

Gammon also uses low-carbon materials, like low-carbon concrete and cement. It has been awarded the Carbon Care Label Certificate by Carbon Care Asia in 2014 and 2015 for its endeavors in creating low-carbon construction processes and for helping reduce carbon emissions.