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Government HQ power bill has risen fivefold

Clear the Air says: this must stem from all the hot air generated within the building – the building’s only ‘green’ features are the current administration’s abilities to burn through green from the public purse.

Danny Mok
May 24, 2012

Despite officials touting the green features of the new headquarters in Admiralty, taxpayers are forking out five times as much for electricity bills than for the old premises.

The average monthly electricity expenditure from October 2011 to March this year was about HK$3.4 million, Chief Secretary Stephen Lam Sui-lung said in a written reply to Civic Party lawmaker Audrey Eu Yuet-mee. From October 2010 to May 2011, the government paid a monthly average of HK$700,000. The average monthly electricity use in the new headquarters from October 2011 to March this year was about 14.6 kilowatt hours per square metre, compared with 6.8 kWh per square metre for the old premises from October 2010 to May 2011.

Lam said it was not appropriate to directly compare consumption levels because the size, facilities and the number of bureaus in the old premises compared with the new site was different.

The complex in Admiralty was completed in August when departments began moving in, with the move completed in December.

But Eu rejected Lam’s remarks because the functions for the new premises were the same as the old one, despite differences in design and size. “It is infuriating that the electricity bills and power consumption in the new headquarters did not come down, but went up despite the installation of multiple environmental features,” Eu said.

Eu said round-the-clock air-conditioning in the new building contributed to 48 per cent of the bill in February, and called on the government to reduce consumption. Lighting accounted for 12 per cent of the bill, while lifts and escalators took up 3 per cent, the government’s figures showed.

Feds pressured by coal industry to weaken regulations, records reveal

Description: Environment Canada weakens a draft version of regulations to crack down on pollution from coal-fired power plants following pressure from the industry, newly-released federal records reveal.

21 April 2012

Environment Canada weakens a draft version of regulations to crack down on pollution from coal-fired power plants following pressure from the industry, newly-released federal records reveal.

Photograph by: Wayne Sawchuk , Vancouver Sun files

OTTAWA – Environment Canada weakened a draft version of regulations to crack down on pollution from coal-fired power plants following pressure from the industry, newly-released federal records have revealed.

Briefing notes prepared by the department in September said the proposed regulations offered the equivalent of an 18-month deferral on enforcement of the regulations “because of the interventions made by ATCO,” an Alberta-based energy company.

The regulations, if finalized, are slated to come into force by July 1, 2015, but ATCO was seeking the deferral “to the end of 2016,” to protect its existing “Battle River 3″ generating unit.

“ATCO’s views had an influence on the proposed regulations as published,” said the briefing note, produced a few weeks after Environment Minister Peter Kent unveiled his plan.

Previously released federal records have also revealed that Kent was pressured by the Alberta-based Pembina Institute, an environmental group, to close potential loopholes, allowing companies to avoid the regulations for any unit built before 2015.

Kent said in September that the regulations were not intended to allow a new plant to launch operations before the rules came into force in order to avoid compliance. But at the same time, his department noted its concessions to the industry while describing the importance of the regulations for reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change as well as improving “air quality for Canadians for generations to come.”

The briefing notes also suggest that ATCO was pushing for Environment Canada to extend a grace period of existing plants from 45 to 50 years, which was already more than a proposal of 40 years made previously by an industry lobby group, the Canadian Electricity Association.

ATCO officials could not immediately be reached for comment. But another company, Maxim Power, indicated that it had put plans on hold for a new plant because of uncertainty surrounding the government’s regulations that are expected to be finalized before the summer.

“It’s been characterized quite unfairly as a race to beat regs,” said John Bobenic, president and CEO of Maxim Power, which is also based in Alberta. “Our investment in this is significant. You would strand some of our investment by implementing the regs as they’ve been proposed.”

He added that the industry is also pushing for a longer recognized lifespan because of the government’s “abrupt change” in policy away from a market-based solution and toward a regulatory approach that could force plants to shut down if their emissions are too high.

Under a market-based climate change plan, previously endorsed by the federal government, companies could achieve their goals by either reducing emissions, investing in other activities that reduce emissions, or buying certified credits from companies that are reducing emissions.

The current approach would not offer companies the same options for compliance apart from achieving absolute reductions in their emissions, and could translate into up to $40 million in stranded investments for a company like Maxim Power.

“It seems to be punitive to one industry in this (regulatory) sector by sector approach,” said Bobenic, who said his company was previously prepared to take other actions, including the purchase of offset credits on a market to reach emissions reduction goals.

A spokesman for Kent said the government is still reviewing comments submitted during a consultation period and cannot speculate on elements to be included in the finalized regulations.

Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency at the Pembina Institute, said any further efforts to weaken the regulations would be favouring profits over public health.

“It’s frustrating,” Weis said. “At 40 years, we know these plants (have) been amortized. They’ve been paid for and beyond that, you’re into almost windfall profits at that stage in the game and there’s no reason we can’t be moving to something else that’s way less polluting.”


Read more:

What Will It Take To Get Sustained Benefits From Natural Gas?

10 April 2012

By Ramon Alvarez, Ph.D
Environmental Defense Fund blog

Natural gas is reshaping our energy landscape. Though the potential energy security and economic benefits are compelling, the challenge is that natural gas comes with its own set of risks to public health and the environment, including exposure to toxic chemicals and waste products, well construction and design, local and regional air quality and land use and community impacts.

There has also been much confusion about the impacts of increased natural gas use on the climate.  While natural gas burns cleaner than other fossil fuels when combusted, methane leakage from the production and transportation of natural gas has the potential to remove some or all of those benefits,depending on the leakage rate. Methane is the main ingredient in natural gas and a greenhouse gas (GHG) pollutant many times more potent than carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal contributor to man-made climate change.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Paper

EDF has teamed up with several respected scientists to find a better way to examine the climatic impacts of increased use of natural gas and compare it in place of other fossil fuels in a paper titled “Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure” published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  While methane absorbs more heat energy than CO2, making it a much more potent GHG, it also – luckily – has a shorter duration in the atmosphere.  The combination of these factors makes it difficult to compare methane emissions to other GHGs using conventional methods.

Instead, in the PNAS paper, we propose the use of an enhanced scientific method: Technology Warming Potentials (TWPs).  Specifically, this approach reveals the inherent climatic trade-offs of different policy and investment choices involving electricity and transportation.  It illustrates the importance of accounting for methane leakage across the value chain of natural gas (i.e. production, processing and delivery) when considering fuel-switching scenarios from gasoline, diesel fuel and coal to natural gas.  TWPs allow researchers, policy makers and business leaders to make fuel and technology choices while better accounting for their climate impacts.

PNAS Paper Key Findings

We illustrated the new approach by analyzing commonly discussed policy options.  Using the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) best available estimated leakage rate of 2.1% of gas produced (through long-distance transmission pipelines but excluding local distribution pipelines), generating electricity from natural gas in new combined cycle power plants decreases our contribution to climate change, compared to new coal-fired plants.  This is true as long as methane leakage rates stay under 3.2%.

Natural gas powered cars, in contrast, do not reduce climate impacts unless leakage rates are reduced to 1.6% (compared to our estimate of current “well-to-wheels” leakage of 3.0%).  In heavy trucks, the reduction would need to be even more pronounced—converting a fleet of heavy duty trucks to natural gas damages the climate unless leakage is reduced below 1.0%.

The PNAS paper only provides illustrative calculations with EPA’s current estimate of the methane leakage rate and better data is needed to more accurately determine leak rates.  Measuring how much gas is lost to the atmosphere and where the leaks are occurring will help to further target leak reduction opportunities to ensure that natural gas will help mitigate climate change.  EDF is working to obtain extensive empirical data on methane released to the atmosphere across the natural gas supply chain, since the climatic bottom line of fuel switching scenarios involving natural gas is very sensitive to this parameter.

Not only is the data on methane leakage far from definitive, but climate impacts from leakage – and other key public health and environmental risks – could be reduced by strong standards and improved industry practices.  There are many practices and technologies already being used in states such as Colorado and Wyoming, and elsewhere by natural gas companies to reduce gas losses, which results in greater recovery and sale of natural gas, and thus increased economic gains. The return on the initial investment for many of these practices is sometimes as short as a few months and almost always less than two years.  In these tough economic times, it would seem wise to eliminate waste, save money and reduce environmental impact.

In sum, the paper’s results suggest that methane leakage rates matter: they can materially affect the relative climate impacts of natural gas over coal and oil.  While the paper does not draw hard and fast conclusions about the future implications of fuel switching, it does provide guidance in terms of the leak rates necessary for fuel switching to produce climate benefits at all points in time.

EDF Methane Leakage Model

We also released a new methane leakage model, based on the science described in the PNAS paper, which allows anyone to test a range of scenarios to quantify the climate benefits, or damages, of natural gas production and usage given specific methane leakage rates.  Users can vary the key system attributes independently to see how they affect net radiative forcing (the primary index used to quantify the effect of greenhouse gases [GHGs] on global temperatures) from U.S. emissions over time.  Visit to plug in different variables and observe the outcome.

For more information, visit

This entry was posted in Methane leakage, Natural Gas.


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Chief Executive Candidates’ visions on Hong Kong Urban Development

Michelle Wong []
Sent: Friday, December 23, 2011 09:35
Subject: Chief Executive Candidates’ visions on Hong Kong Urban Development




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Season’s Greetings from Civic Exchange!
New Year is just round the corner. We wish you a happy 2012!
Civic Exchange would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support in the past year. We hope you enjoyed reading our regular updates and we will continue to bring you our news via newsletters, Facebook and Twitter.


Forum – Chief Executive Election 2010: Vision of Urban Development
(9 December 2011) Civic Exchange, Society for Protection of the Harbour, DesigningHongKong, Planning Alliance, Harbour Business Forum, Hong Kong Institute of Urban Design, and the Faculty of Law of HKU co-organized a forum on 9 Dec 2011 on Hong Kong’s Urban Development. The dialogues between the candidates and forum participants facilitated our understanding of the candidates’ vision. [Download Video Recordings & Media Coverage]

Submission – Regional co-operation plan on
building a quality living area

(30 November 2011) Civic Exchange supports the vision of the Pearl River Delta (PRD) as an “exemplar city cluster of green and quality living”. To realize this, Civic Exchange provided feedback in three broad areas, including “Overarching policy principles, process and timelines, “Dealing with conflicts and other policy tools”, and “Some possible early ‘wins’”. We also made comments on a number of specific issues. [Download submission]

[Download Speakers Presentations and Video recordings] [Download Speakers Presentations, Video recordings and Summary Report]

Jeremy Godfrey incident, the Kitty Chong tree collapse tragedy, the Falun Gong immigration case, Tamar relocation document loss, and many recent controversies were serious consequences from poor public records management. Civic Exchange released a report “The Memory Hole: Why Hong Kong Needs an Archives Law” to highlight the deficiencies in the current system and propose solutions to remediate the situation. [Download full report and feature stories]

Civic Exchange in CleanBiz Asia

2 December 2011 – By Su Liu

What’s the benefit of high-rise farmers and rural appliances?

27 November 2011 – By Veronica Booth

Clear sailing toward shipping emissions regulation?