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March, 2008:

Draft Energy Law Points To Reform

Bruce Schulberg – Updated on Mar 31, 2008 – SCMP

The mainland’s new draft energy law is short on detail but big on signals.

While it remains a shell of a law waiting to be approved, it provides a glimpse of the talking points and the opportunities in coming years. With China now the world’s second-largest energy producer and consumer, the imprint of this law will be felt at home and abroad.

A law which grapples with the mainland drive to fuel its industrial development and ensure energy security, while confronting its environmental issues, is ambitious.

This is particularly so in the mainland context, where energy-related issues are the province of a multitude of government departments. With no central energy regulatory authority since the abolition of the Ministry of Energy in 1992, it is likely that the Energy Law will eventually open the way for a new ministry to implement the law.

The preparation of the draft law has been a lengthy process and the final law’s ultimate content is far from certain. The publication of the draft in December last year for public comment was only a first step in a lengthy legislative procedure.

Public feedback will help shape a revised draft. It will then go through an approval process, which includes the State Council, readings by the National People’s Congress Standing Committee, and finally submission to the congress for voting. It is hoped the final law will be in place in 2009.

The draft law hints at increased market access for domestic and foreign investors. While energy resources will continue to be owned by the state, the draft calls on the state to actively promote a market allocation of energy resources and encourage different ownership systems. This draft hints at new market opportunities for private capital and foreign investment in some energy-related areas in which state ownership is currently in the dominant or monopoly position.

There is also a decidedly green tinge to the draft law. References to sustainable energy sources, pollution control and conservation of natural resources are sprinkled throughout the text.

The draft proposes the adaption of financial incentives and mechanisms to achieve energy goals. A new fund is proposed to encourage, among others, energy conservation, and the development of new and renewable energies.

A tax regime is proposed to encourage the use of preferred energies and discourage the use of other energy sources. An energy consumption tax is contemplated to promote energy saving.

Preferential pricing is contemplated for renewable energies, with punitive pricing mechanisms for high-polluting, high-energy consuming technologies. The draft is not detailed, but developing the pricing mechanism will be a politically sensitive issue and a key to achieving mainland goals and encouraging the use of cleaner energies and technologies.

The Energy Law should ultimately provide the mainland energy blueprint, and there is much to be encouraged by. At present, the draft provides a structure for more cohesive regulation in the energy sector and a more modern and transparent energy policy, opens the door to possible foreign investment, and gives a healthy boost to the cleaner, greener energies.

Bruce Schulberg is a partner of Clifford Chance based in Beijing

Turning The World On To Switching Off

Mark Chipperfield – Updated on Mar 27, 2008 – SCMP

It is rare that Sydney has an opportunity to take the high moral ground.

Founded as a dumping ground for British felons, the harbour city has always had a shady reputation – historians say its first crime, a stabbing, was committed 24 hours after the First Fleet dropped anchor in Port Jackson.

No wonder, then, that Sydney’s normally jaded citizens are cock-a-hoop about Earth Hour – an event which encourages householders, government agencies and private businesses to turn off their electricity for 60 minutes.

Launched in March last year as a Sydney-only initiative, Earth Hour was designed to show how ordinary citizens could make a small but important impact on global warming by reducing their energy consumption.

Such was the success of the inaugural event – an estimated 2 million Sydneysiders and 2,200 businesses turned off their power last year – that Earth Hour has now gone global: on Saturday, people in 24 cities around the world, including Toronto, Chicago, Copenhagen, Melbourne, Dublin and Tel Aviv, will flick the power switch.

The phenomenal growth of Earth Hour over the past 12 months has taken everyone by surprise, even the organising committee. This year, the number of people participating is expected to reach 25 million. “We initially set a target of having 10 cities involved, if possible,” Earth Hour executive Andy Ridley says. “So we were more than delighted when they kept on signing up.”

Mr Ridley believes part of the appeal of Earth Hour – which nicely dovetails with growing concern about global warming, sustainable living and other environmental issues – is its simplicity. “You can participate in Earth Hour if you are in a village or a city,” he says.

Companies like McDonald’s, Lend Lease, Coca-Cola and Westfield have signed up to turn off their lights on Saturday; even the city zoo, Victoria Barracks and the Sydney Opera House will be plunged into darkness.

But Sydney’s environmental campaigners are not quite as enthusiastic about Earth Hour, pointing out that the city has a poor record on recycling and waste management and relies almost entirely on electricity generated in outdated and highly polluting coal-fired power stations. The city’s global footprint is about to become even larger with the opening of a massive desalination plant in 2010.

“Sydney has a bad record for resources management and energy renewal,” says Jane Castle of the Total Environment Centre. “There’s no mandate on recycling, so the situation is spiralling out of control. For example, waste paper from offices accounts for 10 per cent of all waste going into landfill. That’s just ridiculous.”

While praising Earth Hour as a worthwhile public awareness campaign, Ms Castle believes the people of Sydney should not be lulled into a false sense of environmental smugness.

Some people believe Sydney should get its own energy-sapping house in order before it starts preaching to the rest of the world.

“Exactly one year ago my wife and I were in Sydney on vacation and noticed that certain stores on Pitt Street Mall had their air conditioning blowing on high while the doors and windows were wide open,” writes Ted Smit from Canada.

Guangdong Chief Cites Bars To Growth

Fiona Tam – Updated on Mar 26, 2008 – SCMP

Guangdong must clear eight obstacles to development before it can make further economic gains, Governor Huang Huahua told provincial officials at a government meeting on Monday.

The eight obstacles mainly relate to regional co-operation, construction of railway and electricity networks, insurance for rural residents, industrial upgrades and technological development.

Mr Huang gave the highest priority to deepening regional co-operation with Hong Kong and Macau. To speed up the economic integration, Guangdong is to build a seamless railway network in the Pearl River Delta region and establish a road and rail bridge to Hainan.

He said the government would also speed up the expansion of electricity and natural-gas networks in response to the province’s long-standing energy crisis.

The province faced its worst power crisis in three decades this year when bad weather damaged interprovincial transmission lines and pushed up demand.

Analysts say the rate at which the electricity network and power plants are being built in Guangdong lags well behind its economic growth.

To reduce the monthly electricity shortfall of 6.5 million kilowatts, Guangdong released regulations on Monday requiring all large-investment projects to go through energy-efficiency assessments before starting construction.

Mr Huang said the new regulation would focus on energy-intensive projects with annual coal consumption exceeding 3,000 tonnes or any factories covering more than 1 hectare.

Mainland media reported that the new policy was part of Guangdong’s efforts to reduce energy consumption and pollution stemming from its economic growth.

Huadian In 1.4b Yuan Wind Turbine Deal

Reuters in Shanghai – Updated on Mar 25, 2008

China Huadian Corp, one of the country’s five big power generators, has agreed to buy up to 142 wind turbines worth 1.4 billion yuan (HK$1.54 billion) from China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Industry (Group) Corp under a wind power co-operation pact.

In the initial phase of the deal, Huadian would install 20 turbines this year with a combined generating capacity of 36.3 megawatts at a wind farm in the central province of Hunan, Fang Yi, an official at Huadian’s alternative energy development subsidiary, said yesterday.

South Locomotive, a state-owned railway equipment manufacturer that is planning an initial public offering in both Hong Kong and the mainland in May, would continue supplying additional turbines if Huadian was satisfied with the performance of the initial group, Ms Fang said.

China, keen to boost the use of clean energy and reduce its reliance on highly polluting coal, last week raised its target for installed wind power capacity to 10 gigawatts by 2010 from its previous plan of 5GW.

China had 4.03 GW of wind power capacity late last year, or less than 0.6 per cent of its total power generating capacity. Coal accounts for 80 per cent of its electric power generation.

Denmark’s Vestas, the world’s biggest maker of wind turbines, announced a 197.2MW turbine order with Guangdong Nuclear Wind Power in January, with delivery due to begin in the middle of this year.

China Huadian, parent of Huadian Power International, was developing wind power projects in the Inner Mongolia and Xinjiang regions in northern and western China, as well as in coastal regions, Ms Fang said.

“This year we plan to start building up wind power capacity of 300MW,” she said.

South Locomotive started to develop wind power technology in 2006 and installed its first wind power generator last year, its website said.

A company official said it had also provided motors to Goldwind, the country’s largest maker of wind power generating equipment.

Where Does the Sun Shine From in Your Household?

Get Rid Of Crass Light Shows

22nd March 2008 – SCMP

The article by Charmaine Carvalho (“Frazzle dazzle”, March 17), illuminates the problem of light pollution that is increasingly plaguing our city.

The title of Rosemary Sayer’s biography of tycoon Gordon Wu Ying-sheung is The Man Who Turned the Lights On. Many Wan Chai residents now wish that he would turn them off. His group’s buildings in Queen’s Road East, the Hopewell Centre and QRE Plaza, nightly emit flashing multicoloured displays that turn apartments into discos.

After a day’s work I wish to relax without having my senses constantly bombarded. Hong Kong’s noise and air pollution is bad enough without such crass light shows invading residential neighbourhoods.

Why is Hong Kong wasting so much energy on these displays? The power companies are the major polluters of Hong Kong’s air, and our planet’s fuel resources are finite. Reducing power consumption should be the prime target of a responsible and alert government.

The business sector cannot be relied upon to lead in controlling power consumption.

Y. K. Ho, Wan Chai

Clear The Air Support Earth Hour 2008

Clear The Air have signed up as an organisation on the website, fully supporting the Earth Hour Initiative.

On 31 March 2007, more than 2 million Sydney businesses and households turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour – sending a powerful national and global message that it’s possible to take action on global warming.

At 8pm on 29 March 2008, Earth Hour goes global, with cities and towns around the world taking stand on the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, and millions of people uniting to turn the tide on global warming.

Help increase Hong Kong sign ups! Hong Kong only have 352 sign ups at the time this article was posted! Check out Earth Hour Sign Ups by Country here:

Sign Up as an individual, company, organisation or school here:

Check out the Earth Hour website for further information here:

Check out the environmental impact of your lifestyle on global warming with this nifty Facebook application:

Clear The Air are proud to support Earth Hour 2008. Join us at our Clear The Air Earth Hour 2008 event on facebook!

Fiji 7s backs Earth Hour campaign

21 MAR 2008 – Fijilive

The Fiji sevens team have come out openly to support the noble initiative taken by the World Wildlife Fund for the Earth Hour campaign in the country.

Fiji’s fight for global action against climate change has been very proactive for the last few weeks as business houses and individuals have signed up to turn off all essential lights on 29th of March from 8.00-9.00pm.

Digicel National Sevens team manager, Opetaia Ravai said that it was an honour for the team to be part of the campaign.

“We are very proud to support this good cause and we are asking the people to support this good cause.”

“We do know that the Hong Kong sevens tournament will be held on the same night as the Earth Hour comes into effect and we are not asking that you turn off your television set but do turn off other essential lights.”

One of the champions of Earth Hour, Imrana Jalal is also pleading with people to support this worthy cause.

“Image the lives you could save from turning off these lights. The more you turn it off the less the pollution and the emission of the green house gases.”

“I’m just asking all the people out there to just bear with us for an hour only and join other countries around the world to make a difference.”

Australia is the first country in the world to take up such an initiative.

Last year major cities like Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane took the leading stand by turning off their lights for an hour.

Suva and Lautoka will be one of the first cities to switch off lights to support Earth Hour campaign.

Light Pollution Is Plaguing Hong Kong

Frazzle dazzle – Light pollution is plaguing a city that finds it hard to switch off

Charmaine Carvalho – Updated on Mar 17, 2008 – SCMP

The clock says 7pm but it’s hard to tell if it’s night or day in many parts of the city. A combination of neon signs, dazzling store windows and floodlit billboards, each brighter than the next, mask the twilight hours. The night’s so bright these days you almost have to wear shades.

But while they make for pretty travel posters, the overpowering batteries of lights also put a blight on the lives of many people such as Mary Wong Sai-yung. The Fa Yuen Street resident lives opposite the Hoi King shopping arcade, where billboards are lit by five spotlights so powerful that even heavy curtains can’t keep out the glare.

“I find it hard to sleep. My bedroom gets really stuffy since I can’t open the windows,” says the 42-year-old nurse. “The lights are on till 5am although there are few pedestrians on the street after midnight.”

In Causeway Bay, stockbroker Julie Fong Man-lai shares a similar problem. Floodlights at an optical store across from her building on Lee Garden Street bathe her bedroom in a constant glow at night. “It really bothered me when I worked an early morning shift because I had to be in bed early and couldn’t sleep,” she says. That’s no longer a problem now that she’s on a later shift, but Fong still thinks it’s a waste of electricity.

Are such complaints the gripes of an overly demanding populace? An inspection of fixtures in Causeway Bay and Mong Kok with electronic engineer Henry Chung Shu-hung one evening reveals what people have to put up with.

Perhaps the most extreme example is found at Windsor House, where some 60 floodlights illuminate four billboards on the side of the building. Using a meter to determine the lux, a measure of light intensity, Chung found that this translates to street level illumination of 9,000 lux.

That’s almost as bright as being outdoors on a clear day – about 10,000 lux, says Chung, an associate dean of science and engineering at City University. And it’s 18 times the light intensity recorded at the Victoria Park tennis courts – 500 lux – where floodlights are positioned to ensure visibility of a whizzing ball.

A spokesman for Chinese Estates Holdings, which manages Windsor House, says existing floodlights are needed for building renovations and the level will be reviewed when planning for permanent lighting.

Hysan Development, which has a brightly lit construction site billboard on Lee Garden Road, says the lights were installed for safety.

Emerging from Yau Ma Tei MTR station, Bank Centre on bustling Sai Yeung Choi Street catches the eye as another example of lighting overkill. The glare from its lights raises the intensity to about 4,000 lux – almost three times as bright as the recommended level when doing detailed drawings and other work requiring fine attention. A nearby newsstand has followed suit, installing metal halide lamps that cast radiance of more than 2,000 lux on the surroundings.

According to the Environmental Protection Department (EPD), the government acts to ensure that facilities such as advertising light boxes are “structurally safe; will not become a serious risk of fire; will not interfere with road, marine and aviation traffic; will not disfigure the natural beauty of any scenery or affect injuriously the amenities of any locality”.

But people whose lives are disrupted by over-illumination have no course for redress because brightness levels are not regulated. Wong and her neighbours have complained to government departments and the management of Hoi King, to little avail.

Last year an internet campaign run by environmental group Green Sense drew 77 complaints about wasteful and annoying lighting, including floodlights that are kept switched on during the day, empty offices that are lit all night and construction sites that remain ablaze when work has stopped.

The group sent complaint letters to building and shop owners after checking lux levels at the sites, but few took action. The minority that responded were residential managers concerned that occupants were affected.

Environment affairs manager for Friends of the Earth, Hahn Chu Hon-keung, says Hong Kong has become much more ostentatious in its lighting since 1998 when restrictions were lifted following the closure of Kai Tak airport. That eased during the post-Sars downturn when people were trying to cut costs, but he says the respite was brief.

While much of the world strives to save energy and reduce use of fossil fuels to curb the effects of global warming, Hong Kong is blithely powering on. Electricity consumption for lighting rose 15.6 per cent between 1997 and 2005 – yet the population grew by just 4.9 per cent.

Our profligacy with lighting feeds into a harmful spiral from the so-called heat-island effect, says Edward Ng Yan-yung, a professor of architecture at the Chinese University. Heat from millions of bulbs raises the air temperature, prompting people to turn up their air conditioners, which in turn pump more heat into the environment even as they cool the interiors of buildings. Meanwhile, more fuel is burned to supply power for lighting and cooling, increasing carbon emissions and air pollution.

But because the eye is drawn to the brightest objects, advertisers and shops will compete to be the brightest on their street unless rules are introduced to curb wastage, says Chu. “Some cities have introduced rules on lighting. But even if [regulation] is not common, we have a unique situation in Hong Kong where residential and commercial areas may not be separate.”

Light pollution takes a toll on health: studies in the US have found that it can increase stress and hypertension, aggravating cardiovascular disease. Over-illumination at night disrupts the production of melatonin and can aggravate heart problems. Several published studies also suggest a link between extended exposure to light at night and increased risk of oestrogen-related problems such as breast cancer in women.

Lighting complaints to the EPD have risen steadily from 33 in 2005 to 40 last year. Friends of the Earth will soon release a book of cases studies detailing the plight of residents adversely affected by living in brightness. Chu says he’s dealt with more than 10 cases in the past year, including an elderly woman in Mong Kok who has not been able to sleep in her bedroom for months because of the glare from a sign outside. “Instead, she’s forced to sleep on a sofa in her living room.” In another example, three flat owners got tired of battling the shopping centre opposite their building and moved out.

People must come forward to complain about light pollution in order to push for regulation to control over-illumination, Chu says. “When we talk of sustainable development, we must think about the social [impact] as well.”

Intrusive lighting is testing the public’s tolerance. In a survey in Mong Kok of pedestrians’ views on lighting conditions last year, Green Sense found that 87 per cent of 485 people polled believed there were excessive spotlights on billboards, 84 per cent thought it was a waste of electricity and 71 per cent said the light and heat made them uncomfortable. Most people (77 per cent) felt the government had failed to control outdoor lighting.

Detractors tend to dismiss green groups’ proposals as calling for a virtual blackout, but activists insist what they’re fighting is unnecessary and intrusive installations, such as flashing signs and spotlights whose glare is reflected into homes, and wasteful practices such as leaving lights on all night in empty offices.

“We need to show that it will not jeopardise business or living standards if some lighting is turned off,” Chu says. “Hong Kong is a high-consumption, high-wastage and high-pollution city. Lighting is a good platform for people to rethink our lifestyle.”

Light it right

Several countries have begun to introduce rules to control outdoor lighting including Chile, Australia, Canada, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic. The town of Bisei in Okayama prefecture was the first in Japan to introduce curbs through a 1989 ordinance. In the US, several states, towns and major cities have introduced anti-light pollution laws.

Measures adopted in various urban centres include:

* Shading outdoor lights Requiring external fixtures to be shielded to prevent wasteful upward light distribution and glare intruding into adjacent properties, with illumination contained to the target area as far as possible.
* Time restrictions Requiring non-essential lighting (including display signs) to be switched off after business hours, leaving only lights needed for security.
* Bans on uplighting Some towns require all externally lit signs, displays, building and aesthetic lighting to be installed at the top and directed downward.
* Curbs on projected light Where search lights, spotlights or lasers are continuously used outdoors, they may not be projected above a horizontal plane.

Sources: UK Select Committee on Science and Technology Seventh Report, Wired

Saving grace

Besides urging consumers to switch off unnecessary lights and reduce the use of spotlights, officials and green groups are calling for a switch to energy-saving bulbs.

“Regular bulbs have to be replaced every two months, energy-saving ones last up to two years,” says Green Sense project manager Gabrielle Ho Ka-po.

Should we immediately refit all light fixtures with energy-saving bulbs? Henry Chung Shu-hung, associate dean of science and engineering at City University, says the new, energy-efficient lights have their drawbacks.

Some types of low-energy bulbs don’t last as long as they claim. And because the low-energy compact lights contain small amounts of mercury, a toxic heavy metal, disposing spent bulbs is an issue. That’s why green groups are also calling on the government to set up a comprehensive recycling system when they promote the use of energy-saving light bulbs, says Hahn Chu of Friends of the Earth.

In Britain, consumers are advised to seal bulbs in plastic bags for recycling.

Potential Greenhouse Pollutant Helps Power Treatment Plants

Biogas from sewage to save HK$15m a year

Potential Greenhouse Pollutant Helps Power Treatment Plants

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Mar 15, 2008

Up to HK$15 million would be saved annually under a plan by the Drainage Services Department to use sewage-generated biogas for power generation, officials said yesterday.

Under the plan, about HK$30 million would be invested this year to install two new biogas power generators at the Tai Po and Shek Wu Hui sewage-treatment plants to generate their own power.

The generators would significantly boost the use of sewage-generated biogas and are capable of delivering about 6 million kilowatt-hours of power annually.

Currently, only the Sha Tin sewage-treatment plant uses all the biogas it produces to generate electricity for its own use.

The Tai Po and Shek Wu Hui plants use just half of the gases they produce – for heating or production of compressed air.

Use of the gas has helped the three plants save up to 19.5 million kWh, which it otherwise would have bought from CLP Power, achieving a net saving of HK$11 million.

With the new generators, they are expected to increase savings to 26 million kWh per year by 2009 and save HK$15 million annually.

Biogas is a methane-laden gas produced from sewage sludge.

It is seen as a form of renewable energy similar to landfill-generated methane gas and if it is not used, it is either burned off or released back into the atmosphere.

But methane is a greenhouse gas that is considered to have a much stronger negative impact on the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

The three sewage-treatment works serve about 1.2 million New Territories residents and handle about 400,000 cubic metres of sewage a day. They yield a combined total of 8 million cubic metres of biogas a year, half of it generated by the Sha Tin plant alone.

About 70 to 80 per cent of gases produced at all three plants are now being converted into various forms of energy, with the rest stored or burned off. Use of biogas generated at the three plants would increase to more than 90 per cent by 2009.

“We will continue to boost the utilisation rate and volume of biogas as our sewage works expand,” said Drainage Services Department assistant director Tai Tak-him.

However, since the power savings were small compared with the more than HK$1 billion annual operating cost of all 270 Hong Kong sewage-treatment works, he said they would have little effect on sewage fees.