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Proper Debate Needed On Petrochemical Plant

SCMP – Mar 24, 2009

New guidelines for the development of the Pearl River Delta issued recently by Beijing say new petrochemical plants in the region should be built in the less developed east and west, away from population centres including Hong Kong. But Guangzhou city officials have continued to insist that a controversial oil refinery already planned for Nansha in the densely populated heart of the delta would pose no threat to the environment because it would have modern pollution controls. To make its point, according to sources, the city government has ordered that an environmental impact assessment due to be issued soon for public scrutiny should be played down.

This attitude and lack of transparency is worrying. Unlike Beijing’s guidelines, the assessment report dismisses widespread expressions of public concern, in Hong Kong, Macau and Guangdong, about the proposed location of an industrial complex that is potentially hazardous and polluting. There is no question the plant is of great economic importance to Guangdong. But it will deliver benefits to the province wherever it is sited. Guangzhou officials appear to be putting the city’s own interests first.

It is good, therefore, to see that dissenting voices are not being drowned out, although the debate is largely hidden from the public gaze. Last week, sources close to the project said it may still be relocated, perhaps to Zhanjiang, a port city in the far west of the province. Now, as we report today, the deputy head of Guangdong’s Environmental Protection Bureau has lent some official weight to that possibility. He said if the complex was to be built at Nansha it would need a favourable environmental impact assessment, reinforcing the impression the provincial government is considering moving it elsewhere. It is easy to see why it would be unwise to locate the plant in Nansha, even if it operated to the highest safety standards. First, the navigational channel to Nansha runs through the Pearl River estuary. Even with constant dredging to remove accumulating sediment, it is still too shallow for large oil tankers. The planned construction of a bridge linking Hong Kong, Macau and Zhuhai across the estuary will make navigation for big ships even more of a challenge. Second, in the case of an emergency, such as an oil spill from a tanker or a fire at the plant, the environmental fallout on nearby population centres could be disastrous.

The Pearl River Delta is one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the nation and the world. In terms of size of population, geography and economic profile, it is similar to the San Francisco Bay area in the United States. During its development into a manufacturing hub, the region’s environment has suffered colossal damage. Its future growth lies in developing the services sector and cleaning up its filthy air and water. What it does not need is an obnoxious petrochemical plant that might further adversely affect the region’s quality of life, real or perceived. By comparison, siting a petrochemical plant in the less densely populated and economically underdeveloped western parts of Guangdong would lead to more even development of the province.

The nation needs energy to maintain the pace of development. Environmental conflict over oil refineries, hydroelectric power stations and coal mines is inevitable. But it is disheartening to see local officials still pushing development at the cost of quality of life. The report on the environmental impact of the Nansha plant should be fully released so a proper debate on the pros and cons of siting it there can be held.

Guangdong Looks To Nuclear Power For Cut In Sulfur Dioxide Emissions

Ivan Zhai, SCMP – Updated on Feb 06, 2009

Guangdong is banking on nuclear power to cut sulfur dioxide emissions and meet Beijing’s environmental targets. Executive Vice-Governor Huang Longyun said yesterday that the province was pushing ahead with construction of nuclear power plants to “repay the [pollution] debt” amassed over years. Guangdong must lower its sulfur dioxide emissions from 1.29 million tonnes in 2005 to 1.1 million tonnes by the end of next year to meet State Council targets. Mr Huang said nuclear power was expected to cut emissions by 600,000 tonnes by 2012.

Guangdong Environment Protection Bureau deputy director Chen Guangrong said sulfur dioxide emissions fell 5.58 per cent last year compared with 2007, dropping at a slightly faster pace than the central government had projected.

Mr Chen also said the province would invest 2.5 billion yuan (HK$2.84 billion) this year building sewage treatment plants in underdeveloped parts of the province. By the end of last year, Guangdong’s waste-water treatment capacity was the highest of any province, treating 10.9 million tonnes per day, he said.

The government would boost public transport to help reduce pollution, Construction Department deputy director Cai Ying said.

State To Close 31 GW At Small Power Plants

Eric Ng, SCMP – Updated on Feb 05, 2009

The central government plans to shut down small coal-fired plants with a combined power generating capacity of 31 gigawatts over the next three years after surpassing its targets for the past two years.

China Central Television quoted an official at the National Energy Commission as saying that Beijing aimed to close pollution-prone and inefficient small power plants with a combined capacity of 13 GW this year, 10 GW next year and 8 GW in 2011.

They would be replaced by large, energy-efficient plants capable of generating 50 GW of power, the report said.

The targets were set at a national energy work meeting on Tuesday. It was the first national industry meeting since the ministerial-level commission’s establishment about a year ago.

About 3.14 GW of capacity was shut in 2006, while 14.38 GW was closed in the following year, exceeding a target of 10 GW. Last year, 16.69 GW was taken off line, beating a 13 GW target.

Together with this and next years’ goals, the mainland will close small plants with a combined capacity of 57.21 GW – more than the five-year target of 50 GW set in 2006.

“We should grasp the opportunity arising from the current decline in power demand to speed up the closure of small power plants and their replacement with large ones,” the commission’s head Zhang Guobao was quoted by the Shanghai Securities News as saying during the meeting.

Large modern plants utilise more efficient technology. For example, the 1 GW generation units installed at Huaneng Power International’s Yuhuan plant in Zhejiang province consumes 283 grams of coal per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of output. This compares with an average of 349 grams for all of the country’s coal-fired plants last year, down from an average of 370 grams in 2005.

The improvement was largely a result of the construction of new plants over the past five years, when capacity doubled to 792.5 GW at the end of 2008.

Energy efficiency enhancement in the power sector, which contributes three-quarters of energy production, is key to attaining the country’s goal to cut energy consumption per unit of economic output by a fifth between 2006 and 2010.

The mainland used 4.2 per cent less energy to generate each unit of gross domestic product last year, up from 3.7 per cent in 2007 and 1.8 per cent in 2006.

Time to Become Environmentally Friendly

Economic crisis gives us a chance to become environmentally friendly

Updated on Feb 01, 2009 – SCMP

Air pollution is a major concern in Hong Kong. I think the present financial crisis is the best time to begin changing our energy policies in an effort to lower our air pollution levels. We must do this, because as air quality deteriorates, our health will suffer. With [continuing dependence on oil] and fluctuating oil prices, we will face more economic instability. We have to recognise that as pollution gets worse, some professionals from abroad are reluctant to come and live in Hong Kong. Being a commercial city, there is huge demand for electricity. As a major entrepot in South China, our trucks, ships and aircraft consume a lot of fossil fuel.

I believe our power stations should come up with a strategy to develop renewable energy resources. We are using non-renewable energy, in the form of coal, natural gas and nuclear power. More should be done in Hong Kong to develop wind, solar and biomass energy. We should also consider co-operating with the authorities in Guangdong with a view to a joint venture through which we could develop green energy. Hong Kong could provide the necessary financing for such a joint venture and Guangdong could offer cheap labour and the spare land needed to establish the green projects. By lowering the cost of labour, land and energy, we can persuade foreign investors to set up companies in Hong Kong.

The government should also encourage Hong Kong citizens to save energy. For example, it could offer tax exemptions for environmentally friendly private cars. Tax penalties could be imposed on cars that pollute because of the fuel they use. I think the tax on plastic bags is a good start. We need to develop a new culture of responsibility regarding the environment. Instead of creating construction jobs as a way to stimulate the economy, we should consider ways of creating green job opportunities, especially for the unskilled who are out of work. For example, people will be needed to categorise our refuse and promote a recycling programme for Hong Kong’s households.

As I said, I think the economic downturn offers us a golden opportunity to diversify and develop green industries.

Stefan Lam Kit-yung, Tuen Mun

Jiangxi To Build Waste Power Generation Plant – January 22, 2009

Nanchang Municipal City Appearance and Environment Management Bureau has signed an agreement with Hong Kong-based Baimashi Green Energy Investment Company to build a waste-burning power plant in Nanchang, the capital city of Jiangxi.

This is reported by local media to be to be the first project of its kind in Jiangxi province.

The construction of the project, which is called Nanchang Quanling Waste Generated Power Plant, will commence at the first half of 2009 with a total investment of about CNY480 million. The project is scheduled to be completed in two years and to have a daily production capacity of 108.3 megawatts.

Featuring advanced waste burning and pollution control technology, Nanchang Quanling Waste Generated Power Plant can effectively control water, gas, and noise pollution during waste burning, and will consume waste from surrounding areas including Jinxian county, Nanchang county, and Qingyunpu district.

Energy Goals To Be Overhauled – Nuclear And Wind Power Expected To Get Far More Emphasis For 2020

Stephen Chen, SCMP – Updated on Dec 20, 2008

China’s midterm energy development goals are tipped to change radically early next year with a surge in nuclear and wind power plants.

As the central government pushes infrastructural projects to stimulate the economy, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) is revising the 20-year road map it set for the energy sector last year, according to the influential 21st Century Business Herald.

The paper forecast dramatic expansion in the nuclear and wind sector as the country, under increasing pressure over greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, tries to shift from coal to cleaner, more sustainable energy sources.

If the revisions are implemented, their energy targets would make the original goals look modest.

Last year, China said that by 2020, the country’s nuclear industry would produce 40GW, more than 40 times this year’s capacity and requiring annual growth of more than 20 per cent.

NDRC Energy Bureau director Zhang Guobao said in March that the commission was considering resetting the target at 60GW. But last month, another NDRC official said that the new target, expected to be released early next year, would be 70GW or higher.

The huge shortening in the timeline meant that construction of a large number of nuclear power plants that were supposed to be built after 2010 would have to begin next year, the paper said.

The possible projects include two new power plants in Yunfu and Shanwei in Guangdong; expansion of existing power plants in Zhejiang , Shandong , Liaoning , Jiangsu and Fujian ; the first power plant for Guangxi ; and some other projects proposed by some landlocked provinces in central China, it said, quoting a source who it said was knowledgeable about the new plan.

The new target will put enormous pressure on capital investment, technology and supplies of uranium-235. But the NDRC has reason to feel optimistic about meeting the goals because the central government has vowed to invest 4 trillion yuan (HK$4.55 trillion) to stimulate the economy in less than four years; and France and the US have already sold third-generation thermal technology to China.

One big missing element is China’s lack of enriched uranium, but Chen Xinyang , general manager of the China Nuclear Energy Industry Corporation, said the solution was to import it.

Mr Chen said the price of nuclear fuels had been driven higher by six major suppliers that controlled more than 80 per cent of the world supply, and after the September 11 terrorist attacks, some major shipping companies had stopped transporting nuclear fuel as controls on radioactive materials intensified.

“We solve the issue by making some long-term fuel supply contracts … and secured transport routes from Central Asia and Russia and across the ocean,” Mr Chen said. “By 2020, no matter whether the goal is 40GW, 60GW or more, we can guarantee enough supply.”

The paper also reported yesterday that wind power generation would also more than triple to a targeted capacity of 100GW by 2020. The new target is 10 times the capacity this year, but it is not unrealistic as China’s wind power generation has doubled since 2005, according to Qin Haiyan , secretary general of the China Wind Power Association.

But Mr Qin said China was still relatively inexperienced in building wind farms and had much research to do before construction begins.

Mainland Power Output Slumps 7.1pc As Plants Shut

SCMP – 12 December 2008

China’s power production slumped 7.1 per cent last month, the biggest decline in more than seven years, as factories shut because of reduced exports, preliminary data from the nation’s largest power distributor showed. Electricity output fell to 252.6 billion kilowatt-hours in November, according to statistics in an internal newsletter published by the State Grid Corp of China. That is the steepest drop since January 2001, data on the website of the National Bureau of Statistics shows. November is the second consecutive month in which electricity output has fallen. Production dropped 4 per cent to 264.5 billion kilowatt-hours in October, the first decline since March 2005. Bloomberg

Seven Power Plants To Be Fined For Not Using Sulphur Filters

SCMP | 15th Nov 2008

Seven power plants, including ones operated by China Datang Group, Shenzhen Energy Group, China Power (SEHK: 2380) Investment Group, China Guodian Group and China Huadian Group, were found by the Ministry of Environmental Protection to have failed to turn on their desulphurisation equipment in certain periods last year as required. They were ordered to rectify the failings before year-end. They will have to disgorge higher power revenues they enjoyed for the periods in which they failed to operate the equipment, which filters out sulphur oxide pollutants. They will also be fined five times the extra revenue earned. Eric Ng

Power Producers Fined For Air Pollution By Coal-fired Plants

Bloomberg | 6th Nov 08

Four of the mainland’s five biggest power producers, including China Datang Corp, were fined for emitting excessive amounts of sulphur dioxide last year, the government said. Seven coal-fired power plants operated by companies including Datang, China Guodian Corp, China Huadian Corp, China Power Investment Corp and Shenzhen Energy Group released more sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere than permitted, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said yesterday. Shenzhen Energy is partly owned by Huaneng Power International, a unit of the mainland’s biggest electricity generator.

Report Warns Of Greenhouse Gas Leap

Chris Buckley – Reuters | October 22, 2008

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s greenhouse gas pollution could double or more in two decades says a new Chinese state think-tank study that casts stark light on the industrial giant’s role in stoking global warming.

Beijing has not released recent official data on greenhouse gas from the nation’s fast-growing use of coal, oil and gas. Researchers abroad estimate that China’s carbon dioxide emissions now easily outstrip that of the United States, long the biggest emitter.

But in a break with official reticence, researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other major state-run institutes have concluded that, without dramatic counter-steps, their nation’s emissions will tower over all others’ much sooner than an earlier government forecast.

The projected leap in emissions underscores the pressures that China will face in looming climate change negotiations, and the immense challenges it would face in meeting any commitments.

By 2020, China’s burning of fossil fuels could emit carbon dioxide equal in mass to 2.5 billion metric tonnes of pure carbon and up to 2.9 billion tonnes, depending on varying scenarios for development and technology. By 2030, those emissions may reach 3.1 billion tonnes and up to 4.0 billion tonnes.

That compares with global carbon emissions of about 8.5 billion tonnes in 2007. Emissions are also often estimated in tonnes of Co2, which weighs 3.67 times as much as carbon alone.

The report does not give its own estimate of China’s current Co2 emissions, but cites data from a U.S. Department of Energy institute that put them at 1.4 billion tonnes of carbon in 2004.

The U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory estimated that the United States emitted about 1.6 billion tonnes of carbon in 2007, compared to China’s 1.8 billion tonnes.

The “China Energy Report” for 2008 warns of drastic risks from inaction in the face of this projected growth, and yet also says economic development must not be hobbled.

“No matter how historical responsibility is defined, our country’s development path cannot repeat the unconstrained emissions of developed countries’ energy use,” states the Chinese-language report, which recently went on public sale without fanfare.

“Therefore, we must soon prepare and plan ahead to implement emissions reduction concepts and measures in a long-term and stable energy development strategy.”

The main author, Wei Yiming, has participated in a U.N. scientific panel to assess global warming. He was not immediately available for comment on the findings and why they appeared now.


The study may add to contention over China’s response to global warming at a time of accelerating international negotiations. Beijing will be at the heart of efforts to forge a treaty next year to succeed the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, which expires at the end of 2012.

The European Union this week said developing countries should accept a 15-30 percent cut in their greenhouse gas emissions from “business-as-usual” levels.

But under the Protocol, a U.N.-led pact, poor nations do not assume targets to cap emissions. And Washington has refused to ratify Kyoto partly because it says the treaty is ineffective without Beijing’s acceptance of such mandatory caps.

Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases trap solar radiation, heating the atmosphere and threatening to stoke worsening drought, disrupted rainfall and more wild weather.

But China points out that per capita emissions of its 1.3 billion people are much lower than rich countries’ and says the developed countries bear overwhelming responsibility for the dangerous accumulation of greenhouse gases.

The new study backs that argument.

Beijing officials have also often said they will not sacrifice hard-won economic development to greenhouse gas caps.

For China, “relative to reducing carbon dioxide emissions, economic development is even more important,” the study says.