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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.

Hong Kong must seize the opportunity to cut fossil fuel use in favour of renewable energy

Albert Lai and John Sayer say the city’s negotiations for new terms and conditions with its two power companies offer a great chance to develop the green energy sector

Imagine if our chief executive announced that everyone had to pay an extra HK$5,600 next year for their electricity to cover the cost of dealing with the effects of fossil fuel use. While this is unlikely to happen, the government is nevertheless subsidising the use of fossil fuels here. Data from the International Monetary Fund shows that this annual subsidy came to more than HK$40 billion in 2015.

Electricity generation accounts for 54 per cent of the city’s fossil fuel consumption. As almost all local power generation uses coal and natural gas, we can conclude that power generation and consumption benefit from more than half of the HK$40 billion subsidy.

As a comparison, we note that the subsidy is equivalent to nearly 80 per cent of our health care budget – a good share of which is spent on treating the effects of poor-quality air on our lungs and hearts.

Attributing the real cost of fossil fuel use is important for several reasons. The profits that the two power companies are allowed to make are based on a formula in their respective scheme of control agreements, which is related to their capital investment and costs. If power companies and other direct users do not pay the real cost of the impact of fossil fuel use, the public has to bear this cost either directly in their bills or indirectly through taxes, which the government uses to clean up the effects of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuel subsidies stand in the way of changes needed to achieve the goals set at last year’s Paris climate summit of a net-zero carbon economy this century, according to both the UN and the World Bank.

In Hong Kong, the scheme of control agreements will expire in 2018, providing an important opportunity for change. The city has the potential for solar, wind, tidal and wave power. The key lies in shaping a beneficial renewable energy policy and an enabling market environment.

To shape policy, we can learn from the experience of similarly developed economies. First, market access and diversification is important. Beyond 2018, power company regulations should give priority access to all who are willing and able to generate renewable energy, with a guaranteed connection to the grid.

Second, investment in renewable energy must be supported by a guaranteed price for clean electricity. Guangdong province, for one, pays twice the rate for solar power as for coal-generated electricity.

Third, a redirection of existing funds is needed. The Environment Bureau wants to revise the scheme of control agreements so the return on fixed assets is lowered from 9.9 per cent to around 6 per cent. If all or part of the reduction went into a feed-in tariff fund, it could provide a stable source of funding to encourage the development of renewable energy in Hong Kong.

At a rough calculation, with 2 per cent return on revenue paid into such a fund, about HK$30 billion a year would be generated. Assuming the government would contribute another half, an annual HK$45 billion fund could be created. If the average feed-in tariff is set at HK$2.50 per kWh, the fund would be sufficient to buy 1.8 billion kWh of clean electricity per year. This would kick-start renewable energy power generation by raising its contribution to 4 per cent of total production.

Fourth, providing space for community participation is vital. Citizens and businesses with suitable rooftops could take advantage of clean energy programmes. The government could allot space in housing estates, public facilities and other suitable areas for groups to form social enterprises and plan community-based investment in solar or wind power facilities.

Germany has invested heavily in renewables, which now account for a third of its energy use. Some 92 per cent of Germans support the transition. One of the main reasons is that the government placed great emphasis on opportunities for ordinary citizens to participate in creating and benefiting from renewable energy programmes through funding and investment schemes.

In Hong Kong, there are 17 reservoirs suitable for the installation of floating solar power plants, similar to those now appearing elsewhere. Offshore waters are also suitable for the installation of wind farms.

Finally, there’s green finance for the new era. With a stable feed-in tariff, renewable energy schemes are predictable enough to attract green funds from around the world.

To allow more people to share the fruits of renewable energy development, the government could consider issuing green bonds.

There are many advantages to the transition to renewable energy. A transformation of our energy system to multiple technologies and diverse suppliers will stimulate the economy and create green jobs.

The power companies may see asset growth stemming less from generation and more from an expanded role as providers of a smart grid. A new energy model for Hong Kong can reduce pressure on the government to import power from the mainland. It will also mitigate pubic calls to merge the two existing power companies, or to separate power generation and distribution.

For the public, implementing a feed-in tariff does not increase electricity tariffs. On the contrary, introducing more diverse renewable energy sources would reduce future vulnerability to increases in gas prices and electricity costs. The public would also benefit from reduced pollution and avoid hefty health care costs.

Meanwhile, local business can find new opportunities in engineering design, equipment supply, installation and maintenance in the fast-growing renewables sector.

For the financial sector, the development of local renewable energy projects is the best opportunity for Hong Kong to become a credible green finance centre. By 2030, it is estimated the world needs US$2.4 trillion invested in renewable energy to reach targets set in Paris.

China’s National Energy Administration has set a national average target for utility companies to generate 9 per cent of total electricity from renewables by 2020, not including hydroelectric or nuclear power. For Guangdong province, the target is 7 per cent.

In this context, the plan outlined above for Hong Kong to put in place incentives to generate 4 per cent of its power from renewables should be seen as only a first step in the right direction.

Who in Hong Kong will have the decisiveness, courage and vision needed to set ambitious targets for renewable energy development? After all, Hong Kong’s contribution to national and international reductions in greenhouse gas emissions will ultimately be even more important for the city’s development and the well-being of its people than the next chief executive election.

Albert Lai is policy convener at the Professional Commons. John Sayer is director of Carbon Care Asia
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1998542/hong-kong-must-seize-opportunity-cut-fossil-fuel-use-favour

While cities worldwide work together against global warming, Hong Kong stands aside

John Sayer says Hong Kong’s absence from international climate change initiatives destroys its own credibility as a centre for climate-smart investment funds and green bonds

It is now over six months since the landmark climate talks in Paris. City leaders and local governments have accepted the important role of city-level action in international efforts to reduce climate change.

More than 7,100 cities joined up last month to form the world’s largest city government alliance, known as the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. They are pledging greenhouse gas reduction goals, renewable energy targets and better exchange of information and ideas on green energy. The new covenant brings together the Compact of Mayors and the Covenant of Mayors to form a worldwide grouping of cities, which are home to some 600 million people.

Michael Bloomberg is a co-chair of the initiative, and he believes this city-level action can be “a giant step forward in the work of achieving the goals that nations agreed to” on climate action.

On the Global Compact of Mayors website is a map showing thousands of cities in 119 countries which have signed up to the initiative. The map highlights participating cities in countries such as Korea, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines as well as six cities in Taiwan. But regrettably there is a void on the south China coast.

Hong Kong is not represented.

The Chinese government played a positive role in ensuring that the Paris agreement was achieved. The agreement notes the importance of “sub-national” activity in slowing global warming. This has to be led by local and regional governments.

Yet more than six months after the signing of an agreement in which world leaders acknowledged that the timetable for change is very short, Hong Kong has neither prepared a more ambitious response, nor joined up to any significant international initiatives.

If Hong Kong joined other cities to set world-standard targets on renewable energy and carbon reduction, this could improve its credentials to become a hub for green finance. But Hong Kong’s conspicuous absence in this area diminishes its credibility as a centre to host climate-smart investment funds and green bonds. A city that displays little interest in renewables, zero-carbon buildings or green transport sends the message that we have not the motivation or capacity to be a leader of green finance.

Nations agreed in Paris that we must begin work immediately on a green transition. Among those cities recognising the challenge, Hong Kong ranks somewhere below 7,100th, behind many hundreds of cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

John Sayer is a director of Carbon Care Asia and was a member of the Hong Kong NGO delegation to the Paris Climate Change Conference in 2015
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/article/1988996/while-cities-worldwide-work-together-against-global-warming

Sludge facility contractor Veolia begins HK$2 billion legal proceedings against gov’t

Hong Kong’s Secretary for the Environment, Wong Kam-sing, spoke with pride at the official opening of the HK$5.5 billion state of the art Sludge Treatment Facilities (STF) last week. The facilities are to be renamed in less malodorous terms as the T Park with the T standing for transformation. “It signifies Hong Kong’s dedication to ‘transforming’ waste into energy, which is a key part in the waste management strategy for Hong Kong,” Wong said at the opening ceremony at which Chief Executive CY Leung officiated.

https://www.hongkongfp.com/2016/05/24/sludge-facility-contractor-veolia-begins-hk2-billion-legal-proceedings-against-govt/

But one aspect of this world class project Wong did not elaborate on is that Veolia, the main contractor, that built the STF, has started legal proceedings against the Hong Kong government to recover HK$2 billion in cost overruns associated with the project. Mediation proceedings are expected to start soon.

The STF which is located at Tsang Tsui near Tuen Mun, was built by a joint venture in which Veolia had 60% and Leighton 40% under the auspices of a 15-year design build and operate contract. It has been quietly operating since April 2015, and is currently incinerating 1,200 tonnes of sludge per day that would otherwise be sent to landfills.

The sludge is delivered by trucks from Stonecutters Island Sewage Treatment Works and ten other wastewater treatment facilities. This is a considerable improvement over the situation 25-30 years ago when most of Hong Kong’s raw sewage went straight into the sea. The STF has a maximum capacity of 2,000 tonnes making it the largest facility of its kind in the world.

Hong Kong’s efforts in this area are gaining international recognition. In April this year, the STF together with Stage 2A of the Harbour Area Treatment Scheme, won a Distinction award in the category of Wastewater Project of the Year at the 2016 Global Water Awards. In addition, the architectural design of the STF was acknowledged by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers and the Institution of Structural Engineers with the presentation of the Grand Award in this year’s Structural Excellence Award.

The EPD is naturally pleased to have one of the key elements of its waste infrastructure in place. However, the joint venture that built the STF is believed to be less than happy at the way events have turned out.

T-Park. Photo: GovHK.

T-Park. Photo: GovHK.

The project was more than a year late. According to people familiar with the STF, this was in large part due to delays by the EPD and other government departments in providing the permits and consents that were necessary to proceed with the project. As a result, the contractor incurred higher charges and significant costs in implementing work-around measures.

Immigration Department

One difficulty the contractor faced was that it had anticipated building a barging point at the site since both the nearby Pillar Point power plant and WENT landfill have permanent barging points. But its application to the Lands Department was not successful. This meant that, instead of delivering large sections of the incinerator to the site on barges, the incinerator had to be taken apart and delivered to the site in smaller pieces by trucks.

T-Park. Photo: GovHK.

T-Park. Photo: GovHK.

This created additional welding work which could have been manageable but the contractor then suffered a further setback at the hands of the Immigration Department which refused to grant visas for foreign specialist welders. They were necessary as boilers operate under high pressure and therefore require very specific welding qualifications that are not available in Hong Kong. Even though this was pointed out to the Immigration Department, the visas were refused. The contractor therefore had to train local welders to overcome this issue. Even then very few passed the required test leading to significant delays in the installation of the boiler.

Fire Services Department

There were also problems with the Fire Services Department (FSD) in getting a Dangerous Goods License and Fire Services Certificate. The FSD was not familiar with the STF’s incinerator since there are no others like it in Hong Kong. Veolia therefore had to train FSD officers to enable them to better understand the plant and what the fire risks are. The contractor had to organise a trip to Europe to visit incineration plants with FSD officers and again a year later as the FSD officers had changed. This also generated significant delays.

Surplus power

One of the key features of the STF touted by the EPD is that it is a waste to energy plant. Indeed, waste-to-energy has become the central mantra of the EPD’s waste management strategy. However, the Environmental Impact Assessment for the project that was completed in 2008 notes: “As the surplus power is anticipated to be minimal and it would be unlikely for CLP to purchase the surplus power, the surplus power would not be sold. Therefore, no power transmission line will be constructed outside the STF site.”

While it was always envisaged that the plant would generate its own electricity, the idea of exporting it appears to have been an afterthought and to have first surfaced in the tender documents. But it is clear that there is no economic incentive for this move given the small amount involved – a maximum of 2MW per day when the plant is operating at maximum capacity possibly in ten years’ time. It is a political initiative to try and broaden the appeal of the EPD’s environmental strategy.

The EPD appears to have left it to the contractor to discuss this issue with a reluctant CLP. This is why the need for an export transmission line only became evident relatively late in the day. As a result, people say it took a long time for CLP to produce the final requirements as to where the connections should be located resulting in long delays before the design of the electrical plant could be finalised.

The EPD’s response to the claim appears to have been to do literally nothing and to pretend it didn’t exist. Faced with this inaction the contractor initiated mediation proceedings as stipulated in its contract.

‘Standard ploys’

But Veolia is not alone in encountering delayed payments by the Hong Kong government which has a number of standard ploys for dealing with claims. One approach is to attempt to bully contractors by pointing out that aggressive pursuit of a claim might hinder consideration for future government contracts. Another tactic is to delay payment for as long as possible in the hope this will encourage the contractor to settle for a lower amount.

Filibustering?

The problem has become so pervasive that 14 international chambers of commerce in Hong Kong sent a letter to Jasper Tsang, the president of the Legislative Council, last February outlining their concerns. The letter pointed out that the delays in payment to contractors was jeopardising the health of consultants and contractors and the whole construction supply chain and could lead to financial problems, the need for layoffs and job losses.

The letter was sent to Tsang in the belief that it was the filibustering and political posturing in Legco that was delaying the approval of funds to be paid to contractors.This is certainly one reason. Another is the chronic culture of risk aversion and self-preservation that pervades the civil service which discourages people from taking big decisions.

The management of the STF project and the handling of its claim is a prime example. The default position of ministers is to avoid taking decisions, and thus responsibility, which could result in criticism, public humiliation and possibly harm their pensions. This aversion to risk is immediately picked up by their civil servants who know they cannot rely on support from their seniors. So for the same reasons they too will avoid involvement with ‘risky’ projects and taking responsibility for decisions.

Government departments can just about bring themselves to ask Legco for additional funds so long as they can justify it in terms of increasing costs of materials and labour. But this approach is unlikely to be successful with Veolia’s claim since it involves additional funding amounting to some 40% of the original price of the project. That will take some explaining. The EPD appears to have taken the view that if the mediation process is able to achieve a settlement, this will make it easier to approach Legco for funds.

The EPD is still smarting from the mauling it received at the hands of the Public Accounts Committee in December 2015 when it was accused of deliberately misleading Legco over the remaining life of Hong Kong’s landfills. It denied the accusation but the experience has increased the EPD’s reluctance to return to Legco since it is aware its reputation has been undermined and that it will be subjected to close scrutiny.

None of this bodes well for an early resolution of the STF claim or indeed other infrastructure related claims. Nor will it enhance Hong Kong’s reputation as place in which to invest and do business. The Hong Kong government has already acquired a reputation for being a slow payer. This will encourage contractors to further pad their tenders as they factor in government risk. This will ultimately increase the cost of Hong Kong’s infrastructure to the taxpayer.

It is unlikely this situation will improve in the near future since there is nothing to suggest that the political situation in Hong Kong will improve sufficiently to allow Legco to get on with its work in a less partisan manner. Further the civil service is unlikely to break out of the current culture which is paralysing government and exerting a dead hand over Hong Kong.

From Waste to Energy – Development & Use of Renewable Energy in Sewage Treatment Facilities

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Misdirected energy: Hong Kong City University roof collapse highlights danger of adding vegetation in a bid to go green

Adding greenery may be too much for a roof to bear, compounded by laxity over the submission of building plans for structural changes

The giant rooftop that collapsed at a City University sports centre and left three injured has highlighted the potential threat of adding rooftop vegetation, a novel way to fight the heat-island effect, to old buildings.

The accident, which could have injured hundreds of people originally scheduled to attend a dinner event on Saturday night, also called into question the lack of government supervision of this kind of rooftop vegetation, which is promoted by the Environment Bureau.

At the City University, the vegetation was understood to have been added last year to the top of Chan Tai Ho Multipurpose Hall, which was completed back in the 1990s.

While the roof was not designed to hold anything substantial – as indicated in the building plan submitted to the government in 1989 – vegetation that would have required a roof five times stronger was nonetheless planted last year, as part of the university’s pledge to go green.

“The figures showed that the rooftop was not supposed to hold a lot of [vegetation],” said Vincent Ho Kui-yip of the Institute of Surveyors.

Ho said the current building regulations relied heavily on owners’ own initiative in submitting a plan for approval if they altered a building’s structure. But the Buildings Department would never know if owners skipped this procedure.

He said the department should remind owners to resubmit plans for new structures.

Professor Jim Chi-yung, an expert on urban soil science and a staunch advocate of green roofs, said it would be “very risky” to install a green roof on a structure – especially an existing one – that did not meet loading capacity standards.

“The roof must be able to take the weight of the dead loads of soil, vegetation and drainage as well as the life loads, which include people walking on it,” Jim said. “The loadbearing capacity must be bigger than the sum of the dead load and life loads.”

He added that the drainage design for a green roof could be an Achilles heel, as it was often not done properly. Poor drainage could lead to water gathering on the roof, leading to dangerously high loading which could jeopardise the roof structure.

But experts asked the public not to panic over the environmentally friendly measure.

“It is already an accepted practice around the world,” said Leung Man-kit of the Green Building Council’s policy and research committee.

City University said on its website that the green roof top “could achieve an energy saving of about 60 kWh/sq m per year, a reduction in CO2 emissions of about 3.2 tonnes per year, [equivalent] to planting 137 trees”.

The Buildings Department could not confirm whether a new plan was submitted before the university added the rooftop vegetation. The university said on Friday night that the contractor had made proper assessments.

Slimy, grimy and good for the city: Hong Kong plant treating 1,200 tonnes of sludge daily to welcome the public

State-of-the-art facility to feature guided tours, rooftop garden and spa services

A waste treatment facility located next to a Hong Kong landfill is due to open to the public and reveal that it offers even more than processed sludge.

Located next to West New Territories Landfill [1] in Tuen Mun, T.PARK [2] is set to offer the public a chance to learn about the state-of-the-art facility featuring interactive guided tours, a rooftop garden with views of Deep Bay and neighbouring Shenzhen, and even spa treatment services.

The facilities are due to open to the public free of charge on June 29. An online reservation is required in advance.

While T.PARK is set to be unveiled, its sludge treatment operation has been up and running since April last year. The HK$5 billion project was approved by the Legislative Council [4] in 2009.

Currently it absorbs 1,200 tonnes of sludge daily – the output of the city’s 11 sewage treatment plants. It reduces the volume of sludge by 90 per cent before the waste by-product is transported to the adjacent landfill.

The facility can treat up to 2,000 tonnes of sludge daily, a figure projected to be achieved by 2030.

The publicly funded project adopts a “full life cycle” approach as it employs renewable energy, mainly from heat discharged during the incineration of sludge.

sludge-plant

Steam generated from the incineration process is then used to drive a turbine capable of producing enough electricity to power not just the facility but also 4,000 households.

sludge-plant-2

Wastewater is also processed in the project through a seawater desalination plant and reused for irrigation, flushing and cleansing purposes.

sludge-plant-3

The estimated annual operating cost is HK$220 million for the next 15 years. French waste management company Veolia is overseeing the project’s design, construction and operation.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1947337/slimy-grimy-and-good-city-hong-kong-plant-treating

Technical staff in mainland China to blame for Hong Kong electric bus prototype going up in flames: report

Compromised water sealing of battery casings led to short circuit in HK$3.8 million vehicle

A sudden fire that destroyed a HK$3.8 million prototype electric bus last year was caused by “operational errors” by mainland technical staff, who compromised testing procedures, an investigation has confirmed.

The locally designed bus, the city’s first, was part of a HK$40 million project funded by the government’s Innovation and Technology Fund for the Hong Kong Productivity Council to develop electric vehicle technologies.

The council partnered with Green Dynamic Electric Vehicle, a subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed China Dynamics (Holdings), which splashed out HK$20 million for the project and was granted the intellectual property rights to the technologies.

The council’s incident report stated that several Green Dynamic technical support staff members who conducted tests on the bus in Dongguan last October had kept the council in the dark about some performance test results.

“Some of the technical support staff … compromised the water sealing of the battery casings during performance tuning and inspection. Subsequent seepage of water into the compromised battery casings eventually led to short-circuiting,” the report said.

The bus was reduced to a charred wreck after it went up in flames at a parking site in Yuen Long last December, just after it had passed a road test and was ready for commercialisation.

While it was designed for Hong Kong’s winding roads, the vehicle was made on the mainland due to a lack of manpower and space to build it in the city.

The report ruled out vandalism and battery overcharging as possible causes.

A spokesman for the council said that although the prototype was destroyed in the fire, the testing and research and development work had already been completed by the end of November last year, meaning Green Dynamic can obtain the intellectual property rights for the acquired technologies.

“This is a very precious experience for us so we will pay more attention in monitoring the work of technical staff for other projects,” said Jonathan Ho, the council’s general manager for corporate communication and marketing.

China Dynamics’ chief investment officer Godfrey Mak Shiu-chung said originally they expected to roll out the electric bus to the Hong Kong market early this year at a market price of HK$5 million.

“Because of this accident, our plan has been delayed,” he said. “So far we have not received any orders. A lot of Hong Kong buyers told us they would wait for the investigative report first and see.”

Mak pledged they would not repeat the same mistake as the battery casings will be tightly sealed off preventing any water seepage.

The report made a series of recommendations, including installing devices to prevent unauthorised opening of the battery casings and automatic fire extinguishing systems in the compartments housing the battery casings.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1937749/technical-staff-mainland-china-blame-hong-kong-electric-bus-prototype

Hong Kong electric company plans floating LNG terminal near Soko Islands

CLP Power says project will open city up to additional source of gas supply and help meet post-2020 fuel mix requirements

CLP Power is eyeing the eastern waters of the Soko Islands, off southern Lantau, for a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal that will enable it to tap more gas from international markets.

This will come nearly a decade after it shelved a land-based version of the project in the southern Sokos despite government approval. A 25-year gas deal with the mainland was signed instead.

The project will help it meet new requirements for half of the city’s electricity needs to come from natural gas after 2020.

CLP, which supplies Lantau, Kowloon and the New Territories, remains tight-lipped on details such as costs and tariff implications, but said the facility would provide the city with additional sources of gas at more competitive market prices and spread out price risks.

CLP’s gas is now piped from Central Asia via the Second West-East Gas Pipeline as part of the contract with the mainland and from the depleting Yacheng gas field near Hainan. As a result,it has little bargaining power over prices.

HK Electric, which supplies Hong Kong and Lamma, obtains Australian and Qatari gas via an LNG receiving terminal in Dapeng, Shenzhen.

“If we don’t have another source…we will have to continue to buy gas from the mainland and our bargaining power will remain weak,” said CLP senior director Edward Chiu On-tin.

The offshore facility, spanning less than a hectare in size, will likely handle about 30 to 50 carriers a year. LNG transferred to the terminal will be converted back into gas and piped to Black Point Power Station in Tuen Mun for use in power generation.

While 22 such terminals are already in operation worldwide, Chiu admitted such a project would be first for Hong Kong. “We will have to consult the Town Planning Board and the Marine Department” on planning and regulation matters, Chiu said.

The company will be submitting a project brief to the Environmental Protection Department in due course.

From there, an environmental impact assessment will be conducted, which will address issues such as impacts on the planned Soko Islands and Southwest Lantau marine parks. Chiu expected “temporary impacts” during the construction phase, but did not foresee any major ecological harm in the long-run as no land reclamation was required.

Dolphin Conservation Society chairman Dr Samuel Hung Ka-yiu said the project did indeed have a smaller footprint than the original land-based project, but posed the same environmental challenges.

“The main facility is located in key habitat used by the finless porpoise and undersea gas pipes are likely to pass through other marine parks around Lantau.”

WWF-Hong Kong’s Samantha Lee mei-wah said regasification – a process which involves pumping seawater to heat the LNG back into gas form – could disrupt fisheries. “This freezing water is discharged and the sudden reduction in seawater temperatures can harm marine life,” she said.

CLP says other locations are being considered, but the waters east of the Soko Islands will remain a “high priority” option.

Energy Advisory Committee member Dr William Yu Yuen-ping said the facility would provide Hong Kong with cheaper gas, but would likely be an expensive fixed asset with a long payback period.

The Environment Bureau said it would review the plan upon receiving CLP’s project proposal.
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Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1935188/hong-kong-electric-company-plans-floating-lng