Clear The Air Energy Blog Rotating Header Image

Hong Kong

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
________________________________________
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

Download (PDF, 397KB)

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.
________________________________________
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.
________________________________________
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.
________________________________________
Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1935188/hong-kong-electric-company-plans-floating-lng

Hong Kong’s hybrid electric buses found to use more fuel than normal ones

‘The numbers don’t look satisfactory,’ says environment official

Hybrid electric double-decker buses actually guzzle more fuel than conventional buses because of Hong Kong’s hilly roads and hot weather, according to preliminary results from an ongoing trial.

Environmental Protection Department officials admitted the six hybrid buses, trialled over a year, were “not as efficient as they thought”. They pointed to heavy use of air conditioning systems, which accounted for up to 40 per cent of the energy used in the summer.

Although fuel performance was better in winter, the buses still used 3.4 per cent more fuel on average than regular buses.

“The numbers don’t look satisfactory right now,” assistant director for air policy Mok Wai-chuen told the legislature’s environmental affairs panel on Wednesday.

“Because buses in Hong Kong use a lot of energy in air conditioning, the benefits of the hybrid mode are not maximised. We are allowing [the manufacturer] time to improve designs … and will come back to report on this later.”

The government spent HK$33 million helping the three franchised bus companies acquire the six hybrids in a bid to explore less polluting vehicle options. The two-year trial began in November 2014.

Lawmaker Tony Tse Wai-chuen questioned why none of the obvious issues were identified before the start of the trial and feared the experiment would end up being “futile”.

Separately, the department announced the start of its latest review of the city’s air quality objectives. These objectives were last tweaked in 2014.

It set up a working group to conduct the review and look into control measures “for other lesser air pollution sources” such as aviation emissions and volatile organic compounds, a major component of ozone.

The latest official data shows ambient concentrations of PM10, PM2.5, nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide dropping 21, 24, 13 and 31 per cent respectively from 2011 to 2015.

Roadside concentrations fell 26, 21, 19 and 33 per cent in the same period respectively. But harmful ozone pollution at both general and roadside stations is still on the rise.

The Clean Air Network urged the government to set the new objectives according to the World Health Organisation’s most stringent air quality guidelines, as several of the current objectives only met its interim targets, which it said did not provide adequate protection to public health.
________________________________________
Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1932126/hong-kongs-hybrid-electric-buses-found-use-more

Balance of power: The future for nuclear power in Hong Kong

Today the Post looks at the debate over how to meet Hong Kong’s future energy needs, in the first instalment of a two-part series five years after the Fukushima disaster

In 18 years an agreement under which Hong Kong imports a large chunk of its electricity from Guangdong province is scheduled to come to an end.

The power is generated at Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station in Shenzhen.

That station’s two pressurised water reactors produce 14 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year. Nearly 80 per cent of that goes to Hong Kong and the rest to Guangdong.

But 2034 will also mark the 40th year of operations at the 1,868 megawatt facility. That’s the minimum age at which an average nuclear power plant must be decommissioned and cleaned up, a costly and complex process that many nuclear powers around the world are only recently beginning to fathom.

As the world marks the fifth anniversary of Japan’s Fukushima disaster this week, energy experts and environmentalists are debating whether there is a nuclear future in Hong Kong beyond 2034.

Pro-nuclear voices believe fission is still the most reliable and stable “baseload” energy source for Hong Kong – one that emits virtually no carbon and is neither subject to the price swings of fossil fuels nor hindered by the supply constraints of renewable energy such as solar and wind.

Anti-nuclear groups believe the 2011 disaster gives reason enough for any country to phase out nuclear power. For Hong Kong and the densely populated Pearl River Delta region the possible impacts of a Fukushima-style breakdown are especially high.

Globally, the nuclear industry appears to be struggling. According to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 398 plants are now operating, down from 431 the year before Fukushima. With energy prices still bottoming out, competition from cheap coal, gas and subsidised renewables has muscled its way into the equation.

Steve Thomas, professor of energy policy at London’s University of Greenwich, said because of these issues, the prospects of nuclear, especially in America and Europe, are being limited.

In East Asia, nuclear power’s future is unclear post-Fukushima. As China and South Korea look to build more reactors, Taiwan’s new government has set a policy of phasing out nuclear by 2025.

Thomas said: “The cost of nuclear and renewables is cost neutral now. But while the cost curve for renewable energy is down, the one for nuclear will only go up.”

Even in Hong Kong the gap in unit cost between nuclear and the likes of coal and gas has widened.

Thomas also pointed to the cost of disposing of spent nuclear fuel “waste” and decommissioning plants. For example, despite a pledged permanent waste facility for Daya Bay’s spent fuel rods, they are stored in a temporary facility a few kilometres from the plant, sparking safety concerns.

“Governments don’t care too much about the decommissioning of plants or the cost of waste disposal because it so far down the line, but in the end, consumers will have to pay,” said Thomas.

CLP, the Hong Kong power company supplied by Daya Bay, said the plant included the charge for spent nuclear fuel and the cost of station decommissioning in the future, “with the intention that future consumers will not pay for today’s consumption”.

Hong Kong’s Environment Bureau remains tight-lipped on anything electricity-related beyond 2025. In an interview with the Post last November, Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing said the government would maintain an “open attitude” to nuclear after the Daya Bay contract ends.

Last year, the government announced that half of its power needs after 2020 would come from locally generated natural gas, with an unchanged 25 per cent from nuclear power.

A spokesman for CLP said the reactors at Daya Bay were, like most others, designed to last 40 years, but the life of most modern reactors could be extended up to around 60 years.

“Given that we still have 18 years to go to 2034, it is too early to comment on its operating life or nuclear power purchase beyond that point,” he said.

The company said the cost of nuclear was relatively stable since a large portion of it covered construction and only a small portion covered cost of nuclear fuel.

An Environment Bureau spokesman said importing power from the mainland grid remained a feasible option in the long-term. But he would not comment on specific details as it would “jeopardise” the government’s position and consumers’ interests amid discussions with the city’s two power suppliers on a new regulatory framework after 2018.

He said a study would be commissioned to look at how interconnection between the mainland’s and Hong Kong’s grids could be strengthened as well as that between the existing grids in the city.

Energy economist Dr William Yu Yuen-ping, a member of the government’s Energy Advisory Committee, said nuclear would most likely remain in the fuel mix, being the practical choice.

“From a perspective of energy policy, nuclear’s function as baseload power source will give Hong Kong impetus to keep nuclear in the mix [after 2034],” Yu said, who also heads the World Green Organisation environmental group.

Yu doubted there would be enough renewable energy, with the unpredictability of sunlight and wind speeds, to fill the shortfall without the city having to increase its reserve capacity.

He also doubted that natural gas could replace it, given its volatile prices.

Dr Luk Bing-lam, who chairs the Hong Kong Nuclear Society, an academic association that champions “nuclear literacy”, said another factor for Hong Kong to consider would be the mainland’s expansion in nuclear capacity, which the central government aims to double by 2020.

Luk said: “China will be using more nuclear so if Hong Kong doesn’t, we will be bearing all the risks but not reaping any of the benefits.”

If Daya Bay was headed for decommissioning, Luk urged the government to make a decision soon on whether or not nuclear would continue to be a part of Hong Kong’s future fuel mix.

“Competition for nuclear with other Chinese cities will heat up,” Luk said.

“Our position will get weaker as more time passes.”

He suggested that the government and CLP could consider tapping into nuclear from four reactors at the neighbouring Ling Ao plant, which – unlike Daya Bay – CLP does not have a stake in.

Greenpeace Hong Kong argues there is no rationale for continuing nuclear in Hong Kong’s fuel mix given the dangers of a Fukushima-style collapse near a densely populated region.

They also point to the dubious safety standards and speed of construction of mainland nuclear plants. As many as 39 reactors, spread across Guangdong province could be up and running within close proximity to the city in the next few decades.

Greenpeace senior campaigner Frances Yeung Hoi-shan urged the government to boost efforts into promoting energy efficiency and to incentivise using renewables. “Hong Kong should go nuclear-free by 2034,” she said.

But how difficult would it be for a city with such a narrow portfolio of fuel choices to ween itself off nuclear as the nation supplying it with nuclear continues to boost the share of atomic energy in its fuel mix?

Yeung pointed to the example of Seoul, South Korea, a city of 10 million which, through tough action by its municipal government has been able to promote more decentralised generation, more renewable energy production and energy sharing schemes, to reduce dependency on nuclear energy from power plants across the country.

This flies in the face of the national government’s policy, which is commits it to increasing the number of nuclear reactors from 24 by the end of 2015 to 26 by 2030.

“Hong Kong officials keep saying everything is too difficult, too expensive,” said Yeung.

“But the problem is there is no perseverance and no innovation. This is something that requires a vision, political leadership, creativity. We must also make use of the autonomy we have in setting our energy policy.”
________________________________________
Source URL: http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/health-environment/article/1922749/balance-power-future-nuclear-power-hong-kong

OWTFHoddesdon-vs-HKG

Download (PDF, 1.72MB)