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New Energy [R]Evolution Scenario from Greenpeace

The new 364-page Greenpeace scenario (GPER)1 portrays a world that is dominated by solar and wind by 2030 and even more so by 2050. Together they provide 43 per cent of electrical energy in 2030 and 75 per cent in 2050, replacing first lignite and nuclear, then coal and then gas. Biomass, geothermal and ocean power are given a minor role, but together with hydro they can help balance intermittent wind and photovoltaics. Much of this is what you would expect. Solar thermal, which produces power from solar heat, will also make also a big contribution, almost 19 per cent of all electricity by 2050, not so far behind PV. Heat can be stored, so power output is (somewhat) dispatchable, unlike PV, and can provide power at night. However, unlike photovoltaics, solar thermal power has so far not lived up to its promises. Greenpeace has long had high hopes for it, but has now postponed its breakthrough.

The hard part of reducing CO₂ emissions is not electricity, though. Neither is it heat, which can be provided via electricity, and that is what GPER counts on.

The hardest part is transport. There are three options: biofuels, electric cars, and hydrogen. Biofuels are produced in large quantity now, but mainly from farmland, where they may compete with food production and biodiversity. Electric cars are favoured by many car manufacturers, but Toyota, the biggest of them all, opts for hydrogen-powered fuel cell cars. GPER bets on both.
“The limited potentials of biofuels and probably also battery electric mobility make it necessary to have a third renewable option”, i.e. hydrogen.

This still means a tremendous increase in electricity (batteries) for road traffic: from 9 petajoules (PJ) in 2012, to 400 PJ in 2020 and 23,000 in 2050. Biofuels also increase, but only to about twice the present volume.
“The use of biofuels is limited by the availability of sustainably grown biomass. It will primarily be committed to heavy machinery, aviation and shipping, where electricity does not seem to be an option for the next few decades. Outside the transport sector, biomass is needed for specific industries to supply process heat and carbon”.

Let me add a personal note. When I interviewed people at the pro-CCS organisation Bellona in Oslo in 2008, their main line of argument was that CCS is needed because you cannot cut emissions enough without it. “Look at Greenpeace’s brand new [R]Evolution scenario”, they said. “It does not do the job!”

I found that this was true. The 2008 GPER projected just a 2 per cent global emission drop from year 2000 to year 2030. Fossil use in global primary energy demand would decrease only 50 per cent from 2010 to 2050. Obviously this was no way to save the world.

Intriguing. Greenpeace are no cowards. They are brave, outspoken, and smart!

They now have improved their act since 2008. The 2015 [R]Evolution sets 2050 CO₂ emissions at 4,358 Mtons, compared with 10,589 in the 2008 scenario. This means a fair chance of limiting warming to 2 degrees. But almost all the cuts are projected to take place after 2030. And this is not compatible with limiting warming to 1.5 degrees.

Maybe that is what is likely to happen, but what then is the point? The scenario should look at possibilities, to explain what Greenpeace wants, not what it guesses.

Now energy modelling is a tricky business. You feed in a lot of data and assumptions and the least you should ask for is internal consistency, so all the sums add up. It is mathematically quite demanding to construct a model that generates numbers on coal consumption In China in 2050 that fit together with economic growth assumptions and wind power installations in North America in 2025. Obviously you do not want wind power to grow very fast one year and then grind to a halt the next year, because unless you have a fairly consistent trend, the model will get very unstable, so a small change in one assumption will cause a landslide of big changes everywhere else. Unless the computer overheats.

But this requirement for stability and smoothness of curves in the model seems to lead to an unwarranted conservatism about the rate of change.

In the real world things happen superfast, stop or even slide backwards, and then skyrocket again. Two neighbouring countries move at extremely different speeds. Take solar power development in a group of countries since 2007.

In 2007, Germany was practically alone in its quest for solar, though Spain had just started. Then several countries experienced growth rates of several hundred per cent for several years. Spain, for example, grew its solar production from 0.5 TWh in 2007 to 12 TWh in 2012, i.e. by a factor of 24, or an average annual growth of 89 per cent. The 2008 growth was more than 400 per cent. The reasons for the fits and starts are overwhelmingly political. The 470 per cent growth that was seen in Italy in 2011 decelerated in 2013 not because the infrastructure would not permit more or because the market was saturated. It decelerated because of political decisions, just as the boom started as a result of political decisions.

Much the same can be seen for wind power. Between 2013 and 2014, Egypt’s wind power grew by 3,244 percent. Denmark’s solar power capacity grew by 2,040 per cent in 2012.

The opposite, contraction, can also happen pretty quickly. As a result of the Fukushima accident, Japan went from 292.4 TWh of nuclear power in 2010 to zero in 2014. There was also a drastic change in Germany. UK coal use fell by 20 per cent in 2014. Gas consumption in Europe fell dramatically between 2011 and 2014.

Over a longer time span and over larger regions, curves get smoother. Not because of physical constraints or saturation – but because governments cave in to the fossil and nuclear lobby.

But even on longer timescales and around the whole world, the models tend to underestimate change. The IEA has consistently overestimated nuclear and coal, and underestimated wind and solar in its canonical annual World Energy Outlooks.

NGO scenarios have tended to bend and stretch the IEA models, but to stay within their framework. In models, CO₂ emissions appear as a product of GDP, population, energy intensity etc. This is highly questionable, because emissions are real, while GDP and energy intensity are just derived numbers. Population is real but its effect on emissions is too erratic to be useful for any prediction or prescription. Luxemburg, with just 0.5 million people, uses as much electricity as Ethiopia, which has 100 million people.

The 2008 [R]Evolution scenario projected 386 TWh solar PV for 2020. Greenpeace was too shy to even hope for what happened anyway.

Evolution, according to Charles Darwin, moves slowly by small, small steps. But then he did not know that all multicellular life started with one single extremely improbable event, and that one asteroid killed off all the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

The world is less inert, more susceptible to change, than the models depict. Perhaps it would be better to think more about the next 15 years, never mind 2050!

It is hard to get it right even so. Who now believes the GPER assumption that the oil price will be $106 by 2020 (and stay there)? It is $45 in November 2015. The difference has large consequences for all energy markets – but it does not have a strong influence on political decisions such as feed-in-tariffs or renewable certificates.

One advantage of modelling is, however, that it can optimize the use of resources, for example by avoiding building more power lines and storage than is really needed. If the world would follow the GPER recipe, it would save a lot of money. But don’t bet on a smooth transition!

Fredrik Lundberg
1. Also briefly presented in AN October 2015

Victory for Greenpeace as Facebook Un-Likes Coal


The release last month of a joint announcement by Greenpeace and Facebook marks the end of one of the most interesting green campaigns of recent years. Greenpeace first targeted Facebook 20 months ago, after the social media giant announced a new purpose-built data center, which it turned out would depend on electricity mainly generated from coal. Facebook cited its commitment to building an energy-efficient data center, but Greenpeace argued that ignoring the prime source of energy for the site undermined other green elements of the strategy.

According to the new statement, Facebook is now committed to using renewable energy in future data centers and also offers to promote this approach to other companies:

Facebook is committed to supporting the development of clean and renewable sources of energy, and our goal is to power all of our operations with clean and renewable energy. Building on our leadership in energy efficiency (through the Open Compute Project), we are working in partnership with Greenpeace and others to create a world that is highly efficient and powered by clean and renewable energy.

A number of specific activities are also mentioned in the statement. Facebook has committed to adopting a siting policy that states a preference for access to clean and renewable energy supply, and funding research into energy efficiency that will be shared through the Open Compute Project. The company will also “Engage in a dialogue with our utility providers about increasing the supply of clean energy that power Facebook data centers.”

Greenpeace, meanwhile, will help support for the Open Compute Project, by encouraging companies to join in, use the technology, and share their own efficiency innovations, and will encourage utilities to offer ways for customers to get their utility data.

Purists may decry the lack of specific goals or actions relating to existing data centers, but the statement clearly marks an acceptance by Facebook of Greenpeace’s basic argument. The biggest irony of the campaign of course is that Greenpeace used the facilities of Facebook to campaign against Facebook. More than 700,000 people signed up to the organization’s Unfriend Coal page on Facebook (which now includes a timeline description of campaign). Now that same platform (though not necessarily that page) will be used to encourage energy efficiency and to convince other companies to adopt clean energy sources.

The Open Compute project mentioned in the statement was started by Facebook as a means of sharing its own work on energy efficiency in the data center. While the initiative sought to counter some of the flack being received from Greenpeace, it also addressed an important criticism of many of the major Internet companies with regard to their secrecy over their data center operations. The new sense of cooperation between Facebook and Greenpeace is likely to put more pressure on other Internet and cloud providers to increase their transparency in this area. The campaign demonstrates the importance and visibility that is now attached to data center facilities and the fact that citing a low power usage effectiveness (PUE) rating isn’t enough to satisfy environmental campaigners.

The power of Facebook, Twitter and other social media is now becoming evident on a daily basis. In our recent report Social Media in the Utility Industry, for example, we estimate that in 2011 more than 57 million utility customers worldwide will use some form of social media to engage with their electricity providers, and that number will grow to 624 million by the end of 2017. As Facebook found, important conversations are already going on that will impact your business, whether you’re involved or not.

Eric Woods is an analyst at Pike Research who focuses on the smart grid and green information technology

A Sensible Government Would Say No To Expensive Wind Farm

SCMP – Updated on Jun 09, 2009

There has been a mixed reaction to CLP Power’s proposed erection of 67 wind turbines 135 metres high off Sai Kung.

Greenpeace said it regarded the project as a milestone for Hong Kong, though added it was a bit late compared to what has been achieved in China and Europe (“Cautious welcome for wind farm”, June 4). But the proposed scheme should be assessed on its merits and whether it can practically augment existing power supplies. Having wind turbines for the sake of establishing a milestone or success in other places can hardly be a sensible reason for their installation.

While WWF Hong Kong was concerned that the proposed wind farm would be in the flight path of migrating birds and adversely affect marine life, the Association for Geoconservation feared the wind farm would kill off the proposed geopark, because of its visual impact. Some aspects of this proposal are very clear.

The mega wind farm might cost as much as HK$2.8 billion and supply only 0.7 per cent of the city’s electricity needs. Under the proposed electricity market reform, investment in renewable energy would be rewarded with a permitted return of up to 11 per cent, according to a report in the South China Morning Post in 2006 (“Wind farm may blow more than it’s worth”). So, if the wind farm is allowed to go ahead, consumers will have to foot the bill for CLP Power’s capital expenditure and that will mean a necessary rise in the electricity tariff.

The power output from the farm – of less than 1 per cent of the city’s electricity demand – could be offset by electricity saved by simply switching off lights, appliances and equipment when not in use. This can be easily done at no cost and is environmentally most sensible. This consideration alone will surely render the proposed 200-megawatt wind farm absolutely superfluous to the city’s power requirements. Clearly, CLP Power’s proposed wind farm was never considered to benefit the city or our environment to begin with, other than the permitted return. A sensible government would certainly say no to this project.

Alex Tam, Sai Kung

Copyright (c) 2009 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All right reserved

Beijing Defends Energy Policy After Scathing Report

Agence France-Presse in Beijing | Updated on Oct 28, 2008

Beijing on Tuesday defended its energy policy a day after three influential green organisations criticised its dependence on coal.

“The Chinese government attaches great importance to the development and exploration of clean energy,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters.

“It has been making great efforts to increase the share of clean energy in the energy mix.”

A report commissioned by Greenpeace, the Energy Foundation and WWF on Monday said China’s dependency on coal was creating hidden environmental and other costs worth more than seven per cent of its annual gross domestic product.

The unaccounted costs equated to an estimated 1.7 trillion yuan (US$250 billion), and would be even higher if the impacts in terms of climate change were included, according to the report.

China depends on coal for about 70 per cent of its booming energy needs, which is one factor in its huge increase in greenhouse gas output in recent years.

Ms Jiang said China had implemented a range of policies to tackle the problem.

“We have reissued a renewable energy law and encouraged development of all sorts of renewable energies, including green energy, solar energy, water and hydro energy, thermal energy,” she said.

“We also attach importance to the clean use of coal, and we have done a lot to control the emission of pollutants produced in burning coal.”

Still, China ranks alongside the United States as one of the world’s two biggest emitters of the gases that are blamed for climate change.

Ms Jiang said China would continue to step up efforts to develop renewable energy.

True Cost Of Coal To Nation ‘Far Exceeds’ Market Price

Shi Jiangtao in Beijing – SCMP | Updated on Oct 28, 2008

The environmental and social costs of China’s reliance on coal as an energy source have been grossly underestimated, a joint study by environmentalists and economists says.

For each tonne of coal consumed last year, China paid 150 yuan (HK$170) extra in environmental damage, according to “The True Cost of Coal”.

The report, commissioned by Greenpeace, the US-based Energy Foundation and WWF, was written by prominent mainland economists.

The report estimated that the true cost of coal in China last year was about 1.75 trillion yuan, nearly 7.1 per cent of gross domestic product that year.

The figure would be even higher if the impact of climate change were included, according to the report.

“Environmental and social damages are underestimated for using coal in China, as a result of market failures and weakness in government regulations,” said Mao Yushi , lead author of the report and founder of the privately funded Unirule Institute of Economics. “China must count these external costs and make the coal price reflect its true costs.”

The so-called external costs were air and water pollution, ecological degradation, increasing health costs, mining accidents and infrastructure damage.

It also took into account the price distortion caused by government regulations, such as land-ownership policies and poor worker safety and compensation systems, which keep the cost of coal down. Coal accounts for 70 per cent of China’s primary energy consumption and is the biggest single source of air pollution across the country.

It causes 85 per cent of sulfur dioxide emissions, 67 per cent of nitrogen oxide emissions and 70 per cent of airborne particles. Mining has contaminated water, degraded land and caused massive land subsidence.

Coal is also responsible for China’s enormous carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to have made the nation the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter.

Quoting the report, Yang Fuqiang , chief representative of the mainland office of the Energy Foundation, urged Beijing to impose energy and environmental taxes.

His view was supported by Professor Mao, whose study showed that the introduction of a coal tax would raise prices by up to 23 per cent and reduce consumption by about 12 per cent.

“But the taxation measures would have little impact on China’s economic growth,” the report said. “On the contrary, it would make China more competitive globally in the long run and increase China’s social wealth by 942 billion yuan.

“The government of China has the opportunity to make a real improvement to the environment by reforming the current coal pricing system.

Yang Ailun , Greenpeace’s climate and energy campaign manager, said recognising the true cost of coal would create incentives to developing cleaner, sustainable energy.

Incandescent Light Bulbs May Be Banned

Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Oct 16, 2008

Funding carbon audits in buildings and a possible ban on incandescent light bulbs were among measures heralded by the chief executive to combat climate change and develop a low-carbon economy.

“We will enhance energy efficiency, use clean fuels, rely less on fossil fuel, and promote a low-carbon economy – an economy based on low energy consumption and low pollution,” Donald Tsang Yam-kuen said.

Up to HK$450 million will be reserved under the Environment and Conservation Fund to partially subsidise building owners to conduct energy and carbon audits for their public space and carry out related improvement works. The subsidy details would be later worked out by the fund.

The government will also consider following overseas practice in banning incandescent light bulbs and study the feasibility of controlling outdoor light pollution by law. The mandatory energy labelling scheme for electrical appliances will also be extended to cover washing machines and dehumidifiers.

District cooling will be adopted for the Kai Tak development that will cost HK$1.4 billion to build but bring about an annual energy saving of 85 million kilowatt-hours and a reduction of 60,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Hahn Chu Hon-keung welcomed the measures but questioned where they would lead. “The lack of a timetable and energy saving targets means the government is not yet committed,” he said.

Greenpeace campaign manager Edward Chan Yue-fai said the government should ban incandescent bulbs immediately.

Meanwhile, WWF Hong Kong welcomed an earlier announced move to ban commercial fishing in marine parks. The green group’s director of conservation, Andy Cornish, described the ban as a “historic event” for marine conservation. But the group said more substantial gains could be achieved by designating the Soko Islands as marine parks.

Power Struggle – Human and Environmental Cost For Chinese Booming Economy

Simon Parry – Updated on Sep 28, 2008 – SCMP

On average, 10 mainland coal miners die each day and while the government recognises the dangers posed by privately run mines, it needs to keep a booming economy supplied with fuel. Simon Parry reports on the human cost of doing so

The grubby, ramshackle clinic for injured miners is hidden away like a guilty secret at the end of a dirt track in a village near Datong, Shanxi province, China’s coal capital. Outside, Zhu Jiaching hobbles along on crutches and speaks through broken teeth about the day last September when luck was on his side.

“I was working underground when the scaffolding collapsed on me. My legs were broken and my teeth were smashed when I fell face down into the coal.” He points to his black and swollen upper lip. “I still have pieces of coal lodged in here.”

Zhu was carried unconscious out of the mine. He was one of the lucky ones. Last year, 4,000 mainland miners were killed in underground accidents. “A fortnight after my accident, there was another scaffolding collapse in the same stretch of mine,” the 39-year-old father of two says with a grimace. “Four miners were killed. All were from my home province.”

With no salary and only hospital meals to live off, Zhu is waiting to be well enough to return to his wife and children hundreds of miles away. “The mine manager came to see me a few weeks after my accident and offered me 10,000 yuan [HK$11,390] compensation if I took the money and went straight home,” he says.

“I refused. At the time I couldn’t even walk.

“The manager left and hasn’t been back. He won’t discuss the matter and I’ve been living in the hospital ever since. I want him to pay for the treatment to repair my broken teeth and give me proper compensation – then I’ll go home for good.”

In nearby Ganzhong village, Wan Mingyong, 35, smokes and chats with friends as he waits to begin his eight-hour underground shift. Luck was on his side too when, in another privately run coal mine in May last year, a wall of coal exploded in his face. Wan’s face and neck are still peppered with tiny lumps of coal.

“There was a roar and a bright flash and then I was blinded. Pieces of coal shot into my face like bullets and I was covered in blood. My first thought was `Am I blind?’ I spent a month in hospital but I was very lucky. I could have been killed,” he says.

“I was given 5,000 yuan compensation by the coal mine’s bosses. I wasn’t happy with it but what could I do? I had to look after my family so I got out of hospital as quickly as I could and went back to work at the coal face.”

Wan is well aware of how lucky his escape was. “My brother-in-law was crushed when scaffolding collapsed on him in the same mine in 2004. He should have lived but was left to die in hospital on the orders of the coal-mine owner so that he wouldn’t have to pay more compensation,” he says. “We believe they may have even given him a lethal injection.

“At that time, if a miner died, his employer had to pay the family 50,000 yuan compensation. If a worker was crippled, the amount would be three times as high because he had to be paid disability benefit. So it was much cheaper to make sure that my brother-in-law didn’t survive and that’s what they did.”

The stories of Zhu and Wan are typical. The men are part of an army of workers labouring in privately run mines in Shanxi and Inner Mongolia, in northern China, helping dig up the coal that accounts for nearly 70 per cent of the energy needs for the world’s fastest-growing economy.

China has overtaken the US as the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases, according to a University of California study released earlier this year, and 75 per cent of its carbon-dioxide emissions come from the coal-fired power stations that are being opened at a rate of almost one a week.

Greenpeace will this autumn release what is expected to be a highly critical report on China’s overdependence on coal, warning that it is heading towards an environmental disaster unless it increases the price of coal – heavily subsidised to support the booming economy – to restrict its use.

“The price of coal should reflect the full cost of using coal,” argues Beijing-based Greenpeace coal campaigner Liu Shuang. “These power stations are causing serious air pollution. They are not only causing problems for human health but they’re polluting the water and land as well.

“Action must be taken soon. The government did everything it could to stop pollutants during the Olympics but this is a problem that is visible in Chinese cities every day. The Chinese government is taking the coal issue seriously, but it has not done enough.”

It is an industry that exacts a devastating price not only in environmental terms but in human terms. China has 5 million miners and the annual death toll, mostly in smaller, privately run mines, accounts for 80 per cent of all mining deaths worldwide. An average of 10 miners die every day on the mainland. Last Sunday, 37 miners were killed in a gas explosion at a private mine near Dengfeng city, Henan province. The same day, at least 19 miners died after a fire in a coal mine in Hegang city, Heilongjiang province.

Alarmed at the accident rates, the mainland in 2006 announced a series of measures to improve safety, increasing inspections, improving compensation for injury or death and ordering thousands of smaller mines producing less than 90,000 tonnes of coal a year to close. The idea is to concentrate production in state-run mines, which employ tens of thousands of miners and where both safety standards and the quality of the coal are easier to control. The policy has had a degree of success, with death rates in the industry falling substantially from a peak of almost 7,000 in 2002 to 4,700 in 2006 and less than 4,000 last year.

But this year, in the brown and barren hills of northern China, where the country’s biggest coal reserves lie, the huge trucks that move between the privately run mines are once again rumbling back and forth as dozens of mines reopen.

“Since the beginning of this year, when coal shortages became acute, mines everywhere have started opening again,” a retired mining supervisor in Datong says. “The government knows what is happening but provided they allow inspectors to visit every now and again to check on safety standards, they are turning a blind eye to it.”

The reason is overwhelming demand. The mainland needs every last lump of coal to satisfy the demands of its industrial revolution, its booming urban electricity consumption and the additional strain on resources that the Olympic Games in Beijing has had. On top of that, China has just had its harshest, coldest winter in half a century, causing fuel shortages so severe President Hu Jintao travelled to Datong to personally appeal to its 200,000 government mine workers to dig harder to help their snowbound compatriots.

“The president’s visit made us very happy,” says Li Mingxin, 58, a retired miner working as watchman at the Datong’s Xin Zhaoyiu coal mine – known as Government Coal Mine No 5 – where more than 10,000 miners are employed. “We felt very proud. The president of our country had come and asked us for more coal to help save the country, so we all made a special effort.

“Everyone gave up their Lunar New Year holidays. We increased production dramatically and all the coal went to the south for electricity production. We were very happy to be called upon to help at the time of our country’s great need.”

Sitting beneath a portrait of Chairman Mao in his watchman’s hut, Li – who spent 41 years working as a miner – frowns as he speaks of the dangers facing workers at the smaller, privately run mines. “Here, we have very few accidents because the attention to safety these days is much greater than in the past.”

“But the private mines are so small and they use mules and oxen to pull the coal carts from underground. There is also the risk of gas explosions because management is poor, ventilation isn’t good and the machinery to test the density of the gas is not good enough,” he says.

In Datong, the vast majority of workers in the 18 government-run mines are locals and in many cases, jobs are passed on from generation to generation, with the sons of miners being given priority for jobs.

Salaries are about 3,000 yuan a month, much higher than the national average, with a pension of 2,100 yuan for retired, long-serving miners such as Li. “Many men of my age have no salary at all while I receive a 2,100 yuan pension and another 500 yuan a month for working as a watchman,” he says. “We are paid like civil servants but we deserve it because of the duty we did for our country.”

Private mines – usually owned by county or village governments but leased to private companies – are staffed by migrant workers from poor provinces who move from mine to mine to find better salaries and conditions. They can earn up to twice the monthly salaries of their counterparts in state-run mines, taking home up to 6,000 yuan, but the high salaries come at a terrible price: accidents in privately run coal mines account for about 70 per cent of China’s mining deaths.

One miner who works as an explosives specialist in a private mine outside Datong rues the day he turned down the chance to work in a state-run mine because he wanted to maintain a higher salary.

“I didn’t realise at the time that if you work in a government mine for 10 years, you get a pension for the rest of your life,” says Yang Hua, 39.

“As migrant workers in privately run mines, we take greater risks and move from mine to mine. I will have to carry on working until I am 60 to support my family. It’s very different for the mine owners. They drive luxury cars and can make 10 million yuan in just one month. Because of the coal shortage, they have never been able to make so much money.”

Stung by the government criticism of their safely standards, private mines now operate amid tight security, behind high walls and fences, with teams of security guards patrolling the premises to keep unwanted observers away. “No one is allowed in without the owner’s written permission,” a security guard at one private mine says.

In the present sensitive climate, even government-run mines are reluctant to let outsiders visit. Even though guided underground tours are advertised on fading billboards outside the showpiece Government Mine No 9, an official at the visitor’s office eyes us suspiciously and says: “Sorry. We can’t take you in. Our visitor insurance has expired.”

When we assure him that our own insurance will cover the visit, he flicks distractedly through a pile of papers before looking up and announcing: “The tour is very time-consuming and expensive and there are only the two of you. I’m afraid we can’t afford to take you inside.”

Reflecting on the accident that crippled him just three months after he began work at a privately run mine outside Datong, Zhu says: “It happened because of neglect. The managers knew there were cracks in the scaffolding but they still made us carry on working beneath it.”

As a relatively new employee, Zhu was earning only 100 yuan a day to work underground, laying explosives to blast into virgin coal faces, and would work 26 or 27 days a month to earn money to send home to his family in western Sichuan province.

“I used to be a farmer but I have a daughter aged 17 and a son aged 14 and I couldn’t earn enough to pay for them to go to school, so I decided to come to the coal mine to work,” he said.

“Now my family is in an even worse situation because of what has happened to me. My wife has had to borrow money to pay for the education of our two children and we also have my parents to support. It is very hard for them. I will go back to farming when I recover – I can never go back to working in a mine.”

His wait for a fair payout could be a long one if the experience of other injured miners is anything to go by. “I’ve been in this clinic for five years since I broke my legs in an accident and I still haven’t received a proper settlement,” says He Yao, 65, from Inner Mongolia. “I’ll never work again now and I have three children to support – so I’m not going home to my family until I’ve got the compensation I deserve.”

For Wan, the trauma of his accident last year and his relative’s death in 2004 have left deep and permanent scars. “My brother-in-law was only 30 when he died and he had a seven year-old son. The family hired a lawyer and proved in the court case that he should have survived. In the end, they got compensation of 180,000 yuan for his death – more than three times what they were originally offered,” he says.

“We have higher safety standards too. The Olympic Games made inspectors stricter and they are doing more to guarantee the safety of workers. If they check a mine and it isn’t safe, they close it down. The government policy is good because the government is more concerned about the situation of mine workers.”

However, despite the new level of official concern, coal mining in China is like a game of Russian roulette. “I do this work because the salary is better than working in a factory but I risk my life earning the extra money,” says Wan, speaking at the end of his shift in the communal miners’ home outside Datong where he lives with his wife and 12-year-old son.

“Every day when I go to work, my family worries about me, especially after the accident last May. It is only when I come back home at night that they can relax, knowing that another day’s work is behind me and that I am safe from harm.

“I keep doing this because I need to pay for my son’s education. I became a miner because I didn’t have a choice. I want my son to go to university and find a good job. I don’t want him to suffer the same hardships as me.”

Red Door News

A Cleaner, Cheaper Energy Future For Hong Kong

Edward Yau – SCMP – Updated on Sep 23, 2008

Building on our long history of energy co-operation with the mainland, the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between the National Energy Administration (NEA) and the Hong Kong government last month provides a firm backing for an agreement that will help ease the pressure for tariff increases.

The agreement will underpin our city’s economic development in the next 20 years, and ensure that our energy comes from clean sources that are close to home, an arrangement that will keep electricity prices at a relatively low level.

Under the MOU, Hong Kong will see a net increase of at least 1 billion cubic metres of natural gas supply for clean power generation. By sealing the document with Hong Kong, the NEA – which is responsible for regulation and oversight of oil supply and distribution – has undertaken, first, to support the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Holding Co Ltd to renew its supply agreement with Hong Kong for a further 20 years at the current level.

Second, the central government also supports supplying natural gas to Hong Kong, including China National Offshore Oil Corporation’s renewal of its supply agreement with us for another 20 years, also at the current level.

In addition to renewing the two existing sources of supply, it has been agreed in principle to study the feasibility of supplying natural gas to Hong Kong via a new conduit, the Second West-East Natural Gas Pipeline, with an estimated annual supply of more than 1 billion cubic metres.

In a related commitment, the NEA also agreed in principle that Hong Kong and mainland companies could jointly build a liquefied natural gas terminal on the mainland for supplying natural gas to Hong Kong. As the proposed LNG terminal on the mainland can also receive LNG from worldwide sources, Hong Kong will enjoy a greater flexibility in gas sources.

The MOU not only replenishes the current gas supply to CLP Power, it also opens up new sources through alternative pipelines. Importantly, the MOU provides new opportunities for collaboration between energy enterprises on both sides, and is by no means a supply contract binding any firms. It opens the door for energy enterprises on both sides to pursue opportunities on a commercial basis in line with market principles.

For the 2 million CLP Power customers, a more practical concern is whether the agreement helps reduce their power bills. Before the agreement, CLP Power proposed to build an LNG terminal in Hong Kong in anticipation of the Yacheng gas supply running out. Recognising the need for more natural gas to replenish the current gas supply from Yacheng, the government has adopted a dual track approach to process the application.

While proceeding with the initial statutory planning and land processes, it has conducted a due-diligence exercise to verify the need for an LNG terminal on the environmentally sensitive South Soko Island. With an estimated cost of HK$10 billion, the project would inevitably boost CLP Power’s net fixed assets, thus entailing a return to be borne by its customers in electricity tariffs.

As a result of the MOU, CLP Power decided on September 12 to abandon its LNG terminal plan. The imminent result of this decision is the removal of an initial capital outlay of HK$10 billion and the need for cost recovery from the tariff. The building of new pipelines to transfer the gas under the MOU will incur additional capital investment, but the amount will be less than the LNG terminal proposal.

Electricity generation is a major source of pollution in Hong Kong. Natural gas is one the cleaner and more efficient forms of fossil fuel. Replacing coal with natural gas in power generation will help improve air quality.

On top of its environmental benefits, the use of natural gas will also diversify the fuel mix in power generation, thereby improving the reliability of the electricity supply.

Edward Yau Tang-wah is secretary for the environment

Imports Of Nuclear Power Opposed By Green Groups

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP – Sep 15, 2008

Environmental activists have opposed further imports of nuclear-generated electricity from across the border under a new energy agreement with the mainland, though a power supplier has hinted it might expand imports.

The activists maintain that nuclear energy is an unsustainable and unsafe option for meeting rising energy demand, though it is increasingly being revisited as an alternative to ease global warming without compromising energy security.

The remarks came after Hong Kong and the central government sealed a deal last month to extend natural gas supplies to the city and ensure a continuous import of nuclear power – at a level no less than the current flow – from the Daya Bay nuclear station.

Hong Kong has been consuming nuclear power since 1994 under a purchase agreement between CLP Power (SEHK: 0002) and Guangdong Nuclear Power Joint Venture Company, in which CLP had a 25 per cent stake through Hong Kong Nuclear Power Investment.

The agreement allows CLP to import up to 70 per cent of Daya Bay’s output.

In each of the past five years, CLP has imported between 4,700 and 5,100 gigawatt-hours at a price of about 50 cents per kilowatt.

Nuclear power and natural gas each account for about 20 per cent of Hong Kong’s total electricity supply, and 60 per cent comes from coal.

While Hong Kong imports nuclear power from Guangdong, CLP exports electricity to the province. In last year’s annual report, CLP said it wanted both to extend and expand the nuclear-import arrangement.

Edward Chan Yue-fai, a Greenpeace campaign manager, said Hong Kong would be taking the wrong approach towards clean energy by importing more nuclear power.

“We have strong reservations about expanding imports, as nuclear energy is neither safe nor sustainable,” Mr Chan said, citing nuclear plant incidents in Japan that jeopardised the safety of plant staff and nearby residents.

“It is too bad that the energy deal with the mainland did not include any renewable energy imports, like wind power. It is renewable energy we should expand, not nuclear.”

Hahn Chu Hon-keung, environmental affairs manager of Friends of the Earth, said the group was inclined not to support further imports, citing concerns about the disposal of nuclear waste and further efforts to conserve energy.

“We can’t just resolve one problem by creating another,” he said. “Instead of expanding our energy supply, we should consider managing our energy demand through conservation and efficiency.”

Besides, Mr Chu said, further imports might also be undesirable since the mainland still had a shortage of power.

A CLP spokeswoman said it was too early to tell if the company was going to increase imports of nuclear power. “We will further discuss arrangements on generation with the government and continue to explore opportunities to participate in nuclear energy in China.”

The company noted that the Daya Bay station operated in line with international safety standards, with no major incidents reported since commercial operations began in 1994.

Candidates Want Tough Controls Over Power Plant Emissions

Cheung Chi-fai – Updated on Aug 28, 2008 – SCMP

A large majority of the would-be legislators who responded to a Greenpeace survey said they would seek tougher controls on power plant emissions of greenhouse gases if elected.

The poll, conducted by the environmental group this month, also showed that all candidates described the government’s performance in addressing climate change as no more than fair.

Seventy-one of the 111 candidates and slates of candidates responded to a questionnaire distributed by the group. Of these, 42 were from geographical constituencies and 29 from functional constituencies. Most candidates for the geographical constituencies were grouped into lists.

Nearly all of the respondents said they were concerned about the effect of climate change in Hong Kong, in particular in the areas of public health, ecology and weather.

However, Kwok Ka-ki, incumbent lawmaker for the medical constituency, and the candidates on the Kowloon West list led by Lau Yuk-shing said it was not urgent that the government address climate change.

Fifty-nine of the 71 respondents pointed out that the biggest source of greenhouse gases was the electricity-generating sector, and the same number demanded that the government regulate power plants’ carbon emissions. They said they saw the task as a top priority.

Last month, legislators failed to press environment officials to include carbon dioxide as one of the statutory regulated air pollutants in an amended law to tighten control of emissions affecting air quality.

Half the respondents pledged to seek legally binding targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Prentice Koo Wai-muk, a Greenpeace campaigner, said the poll results showed there was a strong consensus among the candidates on climate-change issues regardless of what type of constituency they were contesting.

He said it was the responsibility of the voters to understand what their choice of candidate meant in terms of addressing climate change.

“Different candidates might have different areas of priority concerns. So we will not sanction any candidates,” he said.

Choy So-yuk, incumbent Hong Kong Island candidate for the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said her party had decided not to answer Greenpeace’s poll because members had replied to another green group’s call for pledges on environmental protection, including climate change. She said the DAB supported regulating power plants’ carbon emissions.