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December, 2008:

Guodian, Huaneng Plants Approved

Eric Ng, SCMP – Updated on Dec 11, 2008

China Guodian Group and Huaneng Power International have received approvals to build coal-fired power plants costing an estimated total of 7.5 billion yuan (HK$8.47 billion), despite concerns of oversupply next year.

China Guodian, the country’s fourth-largest power producer by capacity and parent of mainland-listed GD Power Development, got the green light to construct two 600-megawatt (MW) generating units in Xingyang, Henan province, the company said.

A prerequisite of their construction is the closure of small plants in the area as part of Beijing’s “build large, shut small” policy, aimed at raising fuel efficiency and cutting pollution in the power industry.

The 2.52 billion yuan, 600 MW phase two of Huaneng’s Jinggangshan plant, 200 kilometres from Jiangxi province’s capital, Nanchang, has also been approved by the central government, Huaneng said.

Dao Heng Securities analyst Fan Yunfeng and a Huaneng spokesman said the projects were part of a long pipeline of applications made much earlier and not part of Beijing’s 4 trillion yuan economic stimulus package.

The energy spending component of the stimulus plan focuses on expanding renewable power generation and power grids in which there has been insufficient investment.

Beijing has slowed approval of new coal-fired power projects in view of sharply lower demand growth due to the global economic downturn and its desire to steer the addition of new capacity to clean-energy projects.

Industry-wide output slumped a worse than expected 7 per cent year on year for all fuel types last month, and coal-fired plants showed an even steeper 14 per cent decline, according to a BOC International research report.

Coal-fired output tumbled 5.2 per cent in October, according to a Nomura Securities research report.

“We think the sharp deceleration in power demand for nine consecutive months heralds a significant industrial slump to be confirmed later, as downstream industries, like steel, metals mining and cement, among others, take time to clear inventory and close factories,” wrote Peter Yao of BOC International.

He expected power demand growth to rebound only in next year’s second half and projected it to average 4.7 per cent next year and 6.2 per cent in 2010, down from 8 per cent this year and 14 per cent last year.

Oversupply could see industrywide capacity utilisation fall to 53.5 per cent next year, close to the trough in 1999 and compared with 57.2 per cent last year, he added.

China Huaneng Starts 9.1b Yuan Solar Project

Eric Ng, SCMP – Updated on Dec 10, 2008

China Huaneng Group, the parent company of listed Huaneng Power International, has begun building the mainland’s largest solar energy pilot project at an estimated cost of 9.1 billion yuan (HK$10.26 billion).

The project in Yunnan province will be built in co-operation with Yunnan Provincial Power Investment, although shareholding details were not provided in a statement by China Huaneng.

“The project’s construction will provide a platform to develop large-scale photovoltaic power generation engineering, design and construction,” the group said.

The project will consist of 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power units to be used for research and development and 66 MW of “showcase” units targeted at students and tourists.

One megawatt can power 400 to 800 homes, depending on energy usage.

The mainland is targeting to raise renewable energy’s share in the consumption pie to 16 per cent by 2020 from 8 per cent.

Of the target, Beijing aims to raise the national solar energy generation capacity to 300 MW by 2010 and 1,800 MW by 2020, from 65 MW this year.

Part of this will be achieved by installing 20,000 roof-top solar power panels in the country’s coastal cities by 2020, with a total capacity of 1,000 MW.

Another 200 MW will come from large-scale panel installations in waste land in the country’s sparsely populated western regions, 300 MW from small-scale installations in remote areas in these regions and a further 200 MW from solar heat-generating units.

The remaining 100 MW will come from solar panel installations near telecommunications infrastructure, long-distance pipelines, railways and highways to tap the commercial market.

Solar power is virtually inexhaustible and is a free fuel with zero pollution, but analysts said the high cost of solar power generators meant large-scale commercial exploitation will not happen at least in the next decade on the mainland.

Low coal and power prices also present a challenge for developers.

Still, the mainland is the world’s largest consumer and producer of solar water heaters.

Greens Cite Cancer Risk in Call to Dim Lights

Peter So and Tiffany Lam, SCMP – Updated on Dec 08, 2008

More than 1,300 street lights on residential buildings are a cancer risk for residents, a green group has warned.

Friends of the Earth said it wants the government to speed up efforts to reduce their glare and, while conceding that about 600 of a total of 1,900 lights attached to buildings had been refitted with flat-glass enclosures to reduce glare, the group said that only nine had been fitted with side panels.

The group said there were still many residents suffering disturbed sleep because of inescapable lights illuminating their bedrooms.

A physiologist has said chronic exposure to night light disrupted humans’ biological clocks and damaged their immune systems.

At worst, people suffering chronic exposure were at risk of developing cancers of the breast, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, womb and cervix, Pang Shiu-fun, a retired physiology professor formerly of the University of Hong Kong, has been quoted as saying in medical reports.

According to Highways Department figures, about 1,900 streetlights are fixed to buildings in the city. Of those, about 1,300 are attached to residential blocks, mainly in Wan Chai, Central, Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok.

Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Hahn Chu Hon-keung said the government had promised in September that all offending lights would be refitted within a year.

He said, however, only nine streetlights attached to buildings had been fitted with side panels. “The progress is simply too slow.” Mr Chu wondered why the government had been so slow, as the cost of light refits was minimal.

The green group recently conducted a survey on the impact of streetlights on residents. One respondent surnamed Au-yeung – an elderly man living in Wan Chai with a streetlight fixed outside his flat – said it illuminated his bedroom all night despite thick curtains. Mr Au-yeung said he hardly slept more than four hours a night and often woke up because of the strong light.

“I started with half a pill to put me to sleep. Now I have to have 1-1/2 pills,” Mr Au-yeung said, adding he had once collapsed in his living room after overdosing on sleeping pills and ended up in hospital.

Mr Chu said many residents simply put up with the glare or were confused about to whom to complain, so recorded complaints about street lighting had remained low. He said complaints could be made to the Environmental Protection Department on 2838 3111 or to the Highways Department on 2926 4111.

A Highways Department spokesman said it had received 10 complaints about street lights in the first eight months of this year, adding that the department would assess the 10 lights’ effect on residents. If necessary, it would relocate lights, refit them with complete flat-glass lanterns or install side panels.

Edwin Lau Che-feng, director of the green group, urged the government to speed up legislation to regulate light pollution.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said yesterday billboards with unnecessarily bright lights were “a waste”. He said the government had approached businesses about light pollution.

Asia-Pacific: Shipping – Emissions Reductions All At Sea

Paul French, Ethical Corporation – 5 Dec 08

Ships carry most of the world’s consumer goods, but at huge cost to the environment and human health

The Shinyo Ocean is 354 metres long, 61 metres wide and (depending how full it is) about 20 metres high. It is technically a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) – an oil tanker. It’s certainly a big boat.

We’re carrying 180,000 tonnes of oil from Fujarah in the United Arab Emirates to the port of Mailiao, on Taiwan’s coast, facing directly across the Taiwan strait towards mainland China. The oil is all being delivered to one of Taiwan’s largest companies, Formosa Plastics Group.

This moving island is an expensive piece of property – the boat alone is worth $130m, while even with falling oil prices we are carrying a cargo worth over $60m. In addition, we need 62 tonnes of bunker fuel a day to power the ship. At $800 a tonne that means we’re spending nearly $50,000 a day to keep moving. Factor in the costs of all the lubricants, fresh water and food we need aboard and you start to see how expensive it is to move the “black gold” around the world.

We are miles out at sea but we are far from alone. In a week on the South China Sea we experience only a few hours when there is not another large ship – carrying either containers, gas or oil – within sight.

Increasingly, the world’s shipping fleet is moving eastwards as the manufacturing powerhouses of east Asia spew out everything from T-shirts to camcorders, requiring vast amounts of oil to make them.

Straight and narrow

Currently 80% of commercial sea traffic passes through the Malacca straits, the main route from west to east, between Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore. You soon realise that you are just one vessel in a long line of ships heading into east Asia with oil and other raw materials on an ocean highway while container ships of finished goods head in the opposite direction to the waiting markets of the west. It’s a similar story across the Pacific from east Asia to the ports of North America’s west coast.

Taiwan, where we’re headed, is an island of beautiful scenery and stunning coastlines but precious little in the way of oil reserves. Yet it is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer electronics, machinery and chemicals – it’s a safe bet that in your house are a bunch of products marked Made in Taiwan. But with total oil production of about 8,400 barrels per day, the island needs a staggering 1 million barrels to keep its factories running. Taiwan is relies on ships like the Shinyo Ocean making regular deliveries.

For Taiwan, sea delivery of oil is really the only option – as an island, pipelines are problematic, a situation not helped by the simmering disputes between Taipei and Beijing that regularly flare up.

Taiwan is hardly alone in requiring a steady flow of oil tankers to call at its ports. Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and a host of other industrial nations – including the US and the UK – also rely largely on this sea traffic. Yet in comparison with road, rail and plane transport, there has been little discussion of the effects, adverse or otherwise, of this vast seaborne trade on the environment. While aviation has been the focus of environmentalists’ dissent of late, there is an argument that shipping actually is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than airlines.

Here’s the problem. In terms of emissions per kilometre, large ships like the Shinyo Ocean are the greenest of transport options. Ships emit roughly – varying slightly according to their size – 15g CO2 per km, while airfreight emits a whopping 540g/km. However, depending how you make the final calculations, shipping emits more than airfreight as the reality is that ships carry about 90% of world trade.

For the vast majority of products, moving them by plane is a luxury at best and an impossibility in most cases. There’s not much alternative – oil, coal, metals and so on are never going to be moved by air. There’s no other way to get all that iron ore from western Australia to China except by boat.

So if we’re not going to see the demise of these giant ships, can we at least make them cleaner?

The Shinyo Ocean’s main problem is the bunker fuel that powers its massive engines. Just about every vessel at sea uses bunker fuel, often also euphemistically termed residual fuel. Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, says bunker fuel is “the end of the refining cycle, the residue; one step up from the asphalt you put on roads”.

At present bunker fuel is sold to shipowners at a discount of close to $20 on the barrel. Refiners believe this is a win-win situation: owners get cheap fuel and oil majors get rid of their rubbish. But bunker fuel has a high sulphur content, about 2.7% on average, and is just plain dirty. Sulphur dioxides emitted when it burns contribute to climate change and air pollution that harms human health.

According to a peer-reviewed scientific study submitted to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), air pollution emitted by international shipping will be responsible for 84,000 premature deaths worldwide by 2012 if no measures are taken to cap the sulphur content of bunker fuel. The study – published in the December 2007 edition of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Environmental Science and Technology – found that if the shipping industry could limit sulphur content to 0.5% by 2012, 50,000 of these premature deaths would be prevented.

This will not happen. As with all other forms of business the global shipping trade has those who want to proactively do something about their emissions and those less keen, who see it as an additional cost that will hit their margins.

Sulphur caps

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association – which represents about 8% of the total global fleet – is a progressive voice within the industry, as is the international independent tanker owner’s organisation, Intertanko. They are proposing global sulphur caps at various levels of about 1%.

Ultimately the less keen can be brought into line through the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as Marpol, and the IMO. Shipping is a tough and competitive business and clearly not all shipowners want to move to clean fuel. Making that shift would, incidentally, cut the need for purifiers, heating of fuel tanks, sludge control and emission abatement equipment, and the disposal of residues. Ultimately it would lead to the development of more efficient engines and more sophisticated emission reduction systems. But this is long-term thinking and short-term thinkers simply point to the fact that, depending on oil prices, fuel costs could rise by as much as $200 to $250 a tonne, or 25%-30%.

International agreements combined with lobbying could conceivably force change across the whole industry. But a major stumbling block would be the refiners. Quite simply, they are making a good profit from an otherwise generally unsellable residual product. If shipping did truly go green, what would they do with all the residual fuel? Bowring in Hong Kong says that’s their problem. Speaking for Hong Kong shipowners he declares: “We want regulations on this issue. We don’t want to leave it to the owners as it is very expensive to switch.”

If Bowring and the Hong Kong shipowners make the switch, that will have a major effect on global shipping. Hong Kong is one of the most important shipping centres in the world – a compact city that knows how bad emissions from ships can be. In Hong Kong, ships offload containers close to the city centre and shipping accounts for a high proportion of all CO2 emissions on smoggy Hong Kong Island.

If responsible shipowners start to take a lead, backed up by international agreements, then the global shipping fleet can seriously reduce its total emissions. With the vast majority of the world’s trade moving at some point by ship this would have a major impact on tackling climate change, and saving lives.

Alarm Raised Over Energy, Population

By Doreen Yu, – Updated December 04, 2008 12:00 AM

HONG KONG – Before an audience held in rapt attention, Minister-Mentor Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore painted a dire world scenario, both in the short and the long term.

In a dialogue with former US President Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative-Asia here last Tuesday, Lee said he believed the current financial crisis will not be a short one, but whether it will be of medium or prolonged duration depends on what the US economic team tasked to sort out the mess will do in the next three to six months.

“The unorthodox must be considered,” he said when asked about prescriptions to fix the problem.

“The danger now is not inflation but deflation. People feel poor and so they don’t spend. Assets lose their value. You have to put a floor on this,” Lee said, even as he expressed confidence in the economic team that US President-elect Barack Obama has put together, including Larry Summer and Paul Volcker.

The minister-mentor, who had reportedly just gotten out of hospital after implantation of a pacemaker, was uncompromising in his assessment of the global energy situation.

Alternative energy – solar, wind, tides – cannot replace carbon or fossil fuels, he said, since these can only meet about 5 percent of energy demand the world over. The only possible replacement is nuclear energy, which has a lead time of 10 years to implementation.

A $6-billion solar project of a Norwegian corporation is currently in development in Singapore.

He moreover believes that the current drop in world oil prices is only temporary.

“We are in for a spike in oil prices,” he stated, which would mean more coal plants will be put up, which in turn means more CO2 emissions.

As Clinton noted the expected increase in world population from the current 6.7 billion to about 9.5 billion by 2050, Lee said that “population growth is one of the basic problems societies must confront.”

“How many people can the world hold?” he asked.

In response to Clinton’s proposition that the only answer to the population problem is “to send more girls to school,” Lee said that education alone is not enough; there must also be equal job opportunities for women.

Eliciting laughter from the audience that included Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar (Clinton had remarked in his introduction that he “just wants you (Lee) to tell him how to make Mongolia as rich as Singapore”) and actress and UN ambassador Michele Yeoh, Lee said that in many cases women in Asia – particularly Japan, in response to a question from a Japanese – were highly educated but were merely prepped to become “wives of CEOs.”

“They are highly educated but they don’t work. They stay at home and have many children,” prompting Clinton to quip, “Boy, if I had made that statement…”

With more people in the world, “the demand for all resources will grow,” straining these resources, especially carbon fuel, which is finite and exhaustible.

While encouraging energy efficiency measures such as automatic climate controls and efficient lighting for hotels and other buildings, Lee said this “still won’t solve the problem, only delay it.” Even the discovery of new sources of fuel – citing reports from Russia of rich deposits in the Antarctic – is not a solution but merely a delay of the inevitable.

This delay, however, is “a good thing,” Clinton pointed out, “because it will give us some time to figure out what to do.”

Lee was less pessimistic about the issue of water, contrary to the view that water will increasingly become an ever more valuable resource and that more wars will be fought over water than over oil.

Citing the example of Singapore, which used to import more than half of its water from Malaysia but is now practically self-sufficient, Lee explained that the city state retains all rainfall on the island, and waste water is recycled for industrial use. He also cited the importance of fighting pollution, saying that all factories in Singapore are required to treat their waste water before release into the sea or river.

“It (water self sufficiency) can be done if you fight pollution,” and implement technologies that are already available for water resource management. Besides, he added, with global warming, seas will rise, which will lead to more precipitation and thus more water.

Acknowledging that climate change is an inescapable reality, Lee says that “the world must prepare for more adaptation” as a response to climate change, by taking a hard and serious look at the way we live, what we consume, and how we behave.

The two-day Clinton Global Initiative-Asia is a project of the William J. Clinton Foundation, and gathered 11 current and former world leaders, plus leaders of business and industry, education, health, environment and non-government organizations.

New Hybrid Buses Unveiled for London Fleet – 2 Dec 2008

A range of new single and double deck eco-friendly hybrid buses were unveiled for London today (2 December), the first stage in a major expansion of the Capital’s hybrid bus fleet. By the end of January next year, the number of hybrid buses in the Capital will more than quadruple to 56 buses and confirm the Capital’s position as the home of the largest fleet of hybrid buses in the UK. A further 300 hybrid buses will be in operation by 2011.

25 new hybrids will go into service this month on routes 16, 141, 276, 328 and E8; a further 18 hybrid buses will join the fleet early in 2009.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “A wonderful alliance of fuel efficiency and fume deficiency make hybrid engines the way to go for buses in our city. Londoners that travel on buses with the green leaf livery can rest comfortably in their seats and enjoy clear environmental consciences; safe in the knowledge that their journey will guzzle far less fuel and expire a whopping forty per cent less carbon dioxide than a regular bus. I’d urge all Londoners to look out for their leafy livery on the city’s streets and jump on board.”

Both TfL and the Mayor are committed to the introduction of hybrid technology and by 2012, TfL expects all new buses joining the fleet will be hybrid. At a rate of 500 buses a year, it is expected to be the largest roll out of hybrid buses in Europe. The bus industry has responded to that commitment and several major manufacturers have developed hybrid buses specifically for the London fleet. The Mayor has also specified that the ‘New Bus for London’ should run on a hybrid engine.

Hybrid buses are cleaner and greener than their diesel counterparts. Their combination of a conventional engine and an electric motor uses less fuel and is better for air quality as they emit fewer pollutants and reduce CO2 emissions by up to 40 per cent. Their roll out will contribute to the Mayor’s target of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions across London by 2025. Londoners will notice that hybrid buses are also significantly quieter than diesel buses, making bus travel more pleasant for passengers and reducing noise for local residents along bus routes.

Alexander Dennis, Volvo and Optare have now produced their first hybrid buses for London, while Wrightbus has produced a new double deck hybrid, using different technology to that used in the 13 hybrids it already has operating in the London fleet.

Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor’s Director of Transport Policy, said: “With bus ridership rocketing it is vital our buses are as clean and green as possible. The trial of new hybrid buses is a further step towards that aim and will mean we can be sure that we get the best buses possible for Londoners. By 2012 we expect every new bus entering the fleet should be using hybrid technology and their roll out will contribute to the Mayor’s target of a 60 per cent reduction in emissions across London by 2025.”

David Brown, Managing Director for Surface Transport at TfL, said: “London has led the way in the introduction of hybrid technology in its bus fleet, and I’m pleased to see so many manufacturers responding with new hybrid bus designs. As we increase the number of hybrid buses in London, more people across the Capital will be able to see first hand the future of the bus fleet – cleaner, quieter and more pleasant for passengers and Londoners on the whole, but also more efficient and environmentally friendly.”

These vehicles are being introduced as part of an ongoing programme by TfL to test innovative technology and reduce emissions from its bus fleet, which is already the cleanest in the UK.* All of London’s hybrid buses can be recognised by the green leaf motif over their traditional red livery.

Notes to Editors

1. The new hybrid buses joining the fleet in December will be used for driver training this week, and will start going into service from next week onwards on the following routes:

a. Route E8, operated by Metroline between Ealing Broadway Station and Brentford (Commerce Road) – five Optare single decks
b. Route 16, operated by Metroline between Victoria Station and Cricklewood Garage – five new Alexander Dennis Ltd double decks
c. Route 141, operated by Arriva between Palmers Green (North Circular Road) and London Bridge Station – five new Wrightbus double decks
d. Route 276, operated by East London Buses between Newham Hospital and Stoke Newington Common – five Optare single decks
e. Route 328, operated by First between Golder’s Green Station and Chelsea (World’s End) – five new Wrightbus double decks

2. 18 further hybrid buses will join the fleet early in 2009 on the following routes:

a. Route 24, operated by London General between Pimlico (Grosvenor Road) and Hampstead Heath (South End Green) – five new Alexander Dennis Ltd double decks
b. Route 42, operated by East Thames Buses between Liverpool Street Station (Worship Street) and Denmark Hill (Sunray Avenue) – five new Alexander Dennis Ltd single decks
c. Route 141, operated by Arriva between Palmers Green (North Circular Road) and London Bridge Station – a further six new Volvo double decks
d. Route 482, operated by London United between Southall Town Hall and Heathrow Terminal Five – two Alexander Dennis Ltd double decks

3. 13 hybrid buses, built by Wrightbus, are already in service in London:

a. Seven single decks operate on route 360, operated by London Central between Kensington (Queen’s Gate) and Elephant & Castle
b. Five single decks operate on route 129, operated by Travel London between Greenwich (Cutty Sark) and North Greenwich Station
c. One double deck hybrid on route 141, operated by Arriva between Palmers Green and London Bridge Station. This bus will be returned to Wrightbus early in the New Year, when all five of the later model are operating on the route.

4. A total of 56 double and single deck hybrid buses will be in operation in London by the end of January 2009. TfL is committed to a longer term programme that will see a further 300 new hybrid buses joining the fleet by the end of March 2011; after which it is expected that all new buses entering service in London will be hybrid.

5. *The 8,000 strong London Buses fleet is the cleanest in the UK. 27 per cent of the fleet meet Euro II standards and are fitted with particulate filters, 66 per cent meet Euro III and are fitted with particulate filters. 7 per cent meet the latest Euro standard of Euro IV.