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October, 2013:

SCMP: CLP Power pushes back construction of Sai Kung wind farm for study

CLP Power delays energy project to spend more time on feasibility research

by Cheung Chi-fai

A proposed offshore wind farm off Sai Kung might not see its blades rotating for at least another two years after the city’s largest power producer decided to extend a feasibility study into its economic viability and technical design.

The wind farm, proposed by CLP Power for construction near the Ninepin islands, was once said to be the city’s most ambitious renewable energy project and was targeted for completion by 2016. But the firm now appears to be taking a more cautious approach to the project.

Offshore wind farms in Hong Kong can hardly be described as feasible (HK Magazine)

Richard Lancaster, chief executive of CLP Holdings, the firm’s parent company, said the group had already spent 10 years looking into how to build a wind farm in Hong Kong, but it did not want to make a hasty decision.

“The decision has to be taken quite carefully as it is a big investment. We need to make sure the costs are fully understood,” he said at the World Energy Congress in South Korea last week.

Lancaster said more solid wind data would be required to confirm the project’s economic feasibility, and that a couple more years of study were needed.

The lengthening of the study means the multibillion-dollar project is unlikely to be part of the five-year development plan the company submitted to the government earlier this year.

Construction of the infrastructure for the wind farm would boost the value of the firm’s fixed assets, which is the basis on which its maximum permitted profits by the government are calculated. The greater the asset value, the higher the return allowed.

The firm is facing uncertainty ahead of the expiration of the current regulatory regime for the power industry, also known as the Scheme of Control Agreement, in 2018. A decision will likely be made before 2016 on whether the electricity market will be liberalised.

CLP estimated in 2011 that a 200 megawatt wind farm with up to 67 turbines would cost up to HK$7 billion and would lead to a 2 per cent rise in customer tariffs.

Lancaster said he would prefer the wind farm, if it were accepted, be paid for by all the company’s electricity users.

21 Oct 2013

EBus that Charges at each Stop

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Information on plasma technology deployed around the world

Alternrg, the owner of Westinghouse Plasma Corp., published its progress in deploying its plasma technology products around the world in an April 2003 newsletter. Even as familiar Asian neighbours, China and Thailand, are taking up plasma technology, Hong Kong policymakers show no signs of intending to progress along with the world.

Click here to read the newsletter. You can also read it in Chinese.

SCMP: Energy Policy will be transparent, says CLP chief Richard Lancaster

Hong Kong’s energy policymakers like CLP chief Richard Lancaster defends their continued reliance on unsustainable energy, going about different ‘mixes’ of such sources as coal, nuclear and natural gas to make it seem like they have done much thinking through ‘consultations’.

by Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP:

Chief of largest power firm says consumers will be told implications of each mix of sources

Hong Kong’s energy future will rely on an “open and transparent” public consultation that will tell people the implications of their choices in favouring a particular energy mix, says the chief of the city’s largest power firm.

Richard Lancaster, chief executive officer of CLP Holdings, said all relevant information, from energy security and environmental performance to costs, would be made available.

“All implications should be made as open and transparent as possible so that the community has all the information needed to make a judgment,” he said at the World Energy Congress in Daegu, South Korea, last week.

Environment Secretary Wong Kam-sing, also speaking last week, said the consultation aimed to find out the most acceptable energy mix in terms of the proportion of coal, gas, renewable and nuclear in electricity generation by the power firms.

Any decision on the future mix will have significant bearing not just on cost, but also the environment and reliability.

While the mix was a matter for policymakers, Lancaster said it should be “flexible” enough to meet challenges, including the volatility of international fuel prices. “It is important we don’t lose our flexibility and close all options,” he said.

In 2010, the Environment Bureau consulted on a climate-change strategy that proposed a plan for half of electricity demand to be met by nuclear fuel, 40 per cent by gas and 10 per cent by coal by 2020. But it decided to reconsider it last year after the 2011Fukushima nuclear disaster. The mix is now 54 per cent coal, 23 per cent from nuclear and 23 per cent from natural gas.

Lancaster said to ensure supply diversity, he opposed closing all coal-fired plants. “Coal is something we can reduce. But to go to the extreme of closing down coal-fired plants, it would be a bad thing for us,” he said.

Lancaster also wanted to diversify local gas supply by building a liquefied natural gas terminal in eastern Shenzhen which could bring in cheaper gas from around the world when international prices dropped.

On nuclear energy imports, Lancaster acknowledged there were “genuine concerns” that needed to be addressed. But he said one way of tackling these concerns was to have a Hong Kong firm involved in developing mainland nuclear stations.

“We have higher transparency, modern Hong Kong management style, Hong Kong standards of governance to apply for nuclear power stations,” he said.

Christine Loh Kung-wai, the environment undersecretary who also attended the congress, said that while “some people” in society hated nuclear, she had heard of no one who wanted to completely drop imports from the Daya Bay nuclear station.

“Instead of just telling us nuclear should not be allowed, there needs to be an objective discussion on how we look at coal and gas,” she said.

Loh, however, said it would be difficult for the government to tell the public exactly what future prices would be for different fuel mixes as even the most authoritative agency in the United Nations could only provide a loose range of prices.

21 Oct 2013

RSN: Atomic Energy – Unnecessary, Uneconomic, Uninsurable, Unevacuable and Unsafe

The ongoing disaster from the Fukushima nuclear plant, about to reach the 3-year mark in four months time, demonstrates the potential magnitude of devastation if a problematic nuclear plant, located just 30 miles from New York City and currently operating without a permit, was to suffer a similar mishap.

By Ralph Nader, Reader Supported News

It has been over two years since the earthquake and tsunami that brought about the nuclear reactor crisis in Fukushima — the largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. The situation at the six plants is still grim. Four of the reactors are damaged. Hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater are reportedly seeping into the ocean every day. Nearly 83,000 people were displaced from their homes in the approximately 310 square mile exclusion zones. On Wednesday October 9, an accident resulted in six workers being doused in radioactive water. Accidents and mishaps at the Fukushima site are regular occurrences. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has now asked the world community for help in containing the ongoing Fukushima disaster, as it continues to spiral out of control.

Earlier this week, I participated in a panel discussion in New York City called “The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident: Ongoing Lessons.” The event featured notable long-time experts on nuclear technology discussing the crisis in Fukushima and the current state of the heavily subsidized nuclear industry in the United States. The panel participants were former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Commissioner and later Chairman Peter Bradford, former NRC Chairman Dr. Gregory Jaczko, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, and nuclear engineer, Arnie Gundersen.

Mr. Bradford presented a detailed power point that showed how competing forms of energy already are leading to the decline of the nuclear industry.

The panel discussed safety concerns regarding the Indian Point nuclear power plant located about 30 miles from New York City. Indian Point has long been rife with safety problems and its location near an earthquake fault is a source of great concern for many New York residents. You can view Tuesday’s event, in its entirety, here.

The Indian Point nuclear power plant is currently operating without a license after its previous license expired on 28 Sep 2013 (The Examiner News)

In the 1960s, The Atomic Energy Commission determined that a class-nine nuclear power plant accident could contaminate an area the size of Pennsylvania and render much of it uninhabitable. A nuclear disaster at Indian Point would threaten the entire population of New York City and its outlying metropolitan area. The continued existence and operation of Indian Point is like playing a game of Russian Roulette with the lives and homes of the nearly 20 million people who live within a 50 mile radius of the plant. Consider the difficulty New Yorkers have simply commuting to and from their workplaces during rush hour and imagine the horror of a mandatory evacuation due to a nuclear emergency at Indian Point. The NRDC estimates that a serious accident could, in addition to massive casualties, “cost ten to 100 times more than Fukushima’s disaster” which would be in the trillions of dollars.

Indian Point, located dangerously close to New York City itself. (Z Magazine)

If Indian Point were closed today, there is enough surplus energy capacity to last the state until 2020 as alternative energy sources are developed and deployed. Governor Andrew Cuomo has called for the shutdown of Indian Point, as did Hillary Clinton during her time in the Senate. A main reason is that an emergency evacuation of the population up to 50 miles around these two nukes is impossible.

So what’s the delay? Mainly resistance from the nuclear industry and a compliant regulatory agency. The NRC has faltered in its watchdog role by acting to protect and even bolster the dangerous, expensive and unnecessary nuclear industry. The industry’s last claim is that it avoids greenhouse gases. But as physicist Amory Lovins says, if the investment in nuclear plants was shifted to renewables and energy conservation, it will produce less demand and more environmentally benign BTUs by far, and with more jobs.

Anti-nuclear advocates have warned against potential dangers such as earthquakes for decades. Although a new nuclear power plant has not been ordered and built in the United States since 1974, there are currently 65 nuclear plants operating 100 reactors in the United States — many of them aging, many of them near earthquake faults, many of them still not in compliance with NRC fire prevention regulations, all of them significant national security risks. Under President Obama, the first two nuclear reactors since 1978, were authorized to be built at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in Georgia. (Panel participant Dr. Gregory Jaczko was the lone dissenter in the 4-1 NRC approval vote.)

To truly understand the cost of nuclear energy, one must consider the absurdity of the nuclear fuel cycle itself. It begins with uranium mines and their deadly tailings, then the fabrication and refinement of the fuel rods, the risky transport of these rods to the multi-shielded dome-like plant where they are installed, and then firing up the plant so it goes critical with a huge amount of radioactivity. Dealing with volatile nuclear reactions requires flawless operation. And then there is the storage and guarding of hot radioactive wastes and contaminated materials that persist for 250,000 years. No permanent site has been located and licensed for that lengthy containment.

What is the end purpose of this complex and expensive chain of events? Simply to boil water — to generate steam to turn turbines to produce electricity.

With all the technological advancements in energy efficiency, solar, wind and other renewable energy sources, surely there are better and more efficient ways to meet our electricity needs without burdening future generations with deadly waste products and risking the radioactive contamination of entire regions should anything go wrong.

It is telling that Wall Street, which rarely considers the consequences of gambling on a risk, will not finance the construction of a nuclear plant without a full loan guarantee from the U.S. government. Nuclear power is also uninsurable in the private insurance market. The Price-Anderson Act of 1957 requires taxpayers to cover almost all the cost if a meltdown should occur.

No other industry that produces electricity poses such a great national security risk should sabotage or malfunction occur. No other means of generating power can produce such long-lasting catastrophic damage and mayhem from one unpredictable accident. No other form of energy is so loaded with the silent violence of radioactivity.

Nuclear energy is unnecessary, uninsurable, uneconomic, unevacuable and most importantly, unsafe. The fact that it continues to exist at all is a result of a ferocious lobby, enlisting the autocratic power of government, that will not admit that its product is unfit for use in the modern world. Let us not allow the lessons of Fukushima to be ignored.

12 Oct 2013

Information on plasma gasification technology applied in waste-to-energy treatment

Plasma gasification technology has been widely recognized as the future of waste treatment and conversion into reusable energy. Its advantages range from energy efficiency, reduced pollutant production, reduced greenhouse gases emission, conversion of waste products into recyclable materials, elimination of landfill necessity and so on.

Plasma Torches in action (PyroGenesis 2006)

You can read more about the technology here in a white paper from the Gasification Technology Council of the US, and its advantages in application presented in a 2012 symposium by Louis Circeo and Luciano Bardari. The Westinghouse Plasma Corporation of Canada also presents its current plasma projects in the UK, China and India.

Energy Matters – Autumn 2013 Issue

Here you can find the latest issue of Energy Matters, published by Scottish property consultants CKD Galbraith. Topics include plasma gasification in waste-to-energy facilities, decommissioning wind farms, biomass energy, and shale gas extraction.

Beijing to switch from coal to natural gas for power; hopes to improve air quality and quiet civil unrest

In recent years, China’s major cities have been regularly hit with smog, severely impacting air quality and the health of its citizens. With Beijing the hardest hit of all cities, the city is now set to replace its coal-fired power plants with new ones that use natural gas. From SCMP/Reuters (Beijing):

China will replace four coal-burning heating plants in the capital Beijing with natural gas fired ones by the end of next year as it steps up efforts to clean up pollution, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.

The report, citing the city’s Municipal Commission of Development and Reform, said the four plants and some 40 other related projects would cost around 48 billion yuan (HK$60.1 billion) and cut sulphur dioxide emissions by 10,000 tonnes. It did not detail the related projects.

The plan is the latest step by authorities to deal with a persistent smog crisis in China’s big cities that is fuelling public anger. The capital has been shrouded in thick hazardous smog for several days during the ongoing seven-day national holiday.

China has been under pressure to tackle air pollution to douse potential unrest as an increasingly affluent urban populace turns against a growth-at-all-costs economic model that has besmirched much of China’s air, water and soil.

Last month the government announced plans to slash coal consumption and close polluting mills, factories and smelters, though experts said implementing the targets would be a major challenge.

The new plants will replace four coal-fired ones that provide heating for homes in the city’s central urban area as well as generating electricity, Xinhua said.

The four burned 9.2 million tonnes of coal in 2012, or 40 percent of the 23 million tonnes the city consumed in the year, it added.

5 Oct 2013

The project was initially met with objections, since natural gas would be much more expensive to source in coal-rich China. The city is expecting huge financial losses if heat and electricity generated from natural gas plants are charged at current rates. But with pictures of smog-filled Beijing splashing international front pages, as well as increasing unrest over pollution in general, it seems that high-ranking government officials stepped in to ensure the project will go through as proposed. (A more in-depth story on this is available on

A coal-fired power plant in Zhejiang, China. Switching to natural gas may be a luxury only Beijing can afford. (China Guodian Corporation)

No mention is made, though, of other sources of pollution, such as vehicle emissions. Once a city of bicycles, Beijing is now home to more than 5.2million motor vehicles and a road network endemic with chronic jams, making a major contribution to the city’s air pollutants. More work would be needed if the city is serious about improving its air quality.

More plasma-driven waste-to-energy plants set up worldwide; Hong Kong yet to progress?

While a new waste-to-energy plant driven by plasma gasification technology is now operational in the UK, Hong Kong is still considering setting up incinerators as a waste management solution, against all known health risks and environmental pollution caused by incinerators, which, incidentally, are resolved for plasma plants. Can Hong Kong realistically stay competitive if it fails to progress?

UK Officials and representatives of the energy sector tour the newly operational plasma waste-to-energy plant on Teesside, Middlesbrough (Ian McIntyre/GazetteLive)

Clear The Air has prepared a collection of articles updating on the plasma progress in the past year, on plants setting up in India, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Cheung Kong Infrastructure leads consortium in HK$9.7billion acquisition of largest waste-to-energy company in the Netherlands

[Press Release]

(June 17, 2013 – Hong Kong) A consortium led by Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Limited (“CKI”) has entered into an agreement to acquire AVR Afvalverwerking B.V. (“AVR”) in the Netherlands. The enterprise value of the transaction is approximately HK$9.7 billion (EUR940 million).

Members of the consortium include Cheung Kong (Holdings) Limited and CKI, each taking a 35% stake; Power Assets Holdings Limited (“Power Assets”) a 20% stake; and the Li Ka Shing Foundation Limited holding 10%.

AVR is the largest energy from waste (“EfW”) player in the Netherlands. It is the country’s market leader, commanding a 23% market share of the waste processing industry.
AVR’s revenue streams are very stable with long term contracts in place for both gate fees for processing waste as well as off-take for energy generated.

AVR Represents an Attractive Proposition

Leading this acquisition move is Mr. Andy Hunter, Deputy Managing Director of CKI. Mr. Hunter said, “since the acquisition of EnviroWaste in New Zealand in January, we have been presented a number of waste treatment business opportunities around the world.”

“With its secured and stable income as well as good profitability, AVR represents an attractive proposition,” continued Mr. Hunter.

“The experienced management team, market leadership position and potential growth opportunities are other key factors which add appeal to AVR,” commented Mr. Hunter.

“The prospects of AVR are also enticing. Further growth opportunities include the treatment of import waste of which AVR has already started,” Mr. Hunter expressed.

CKI Making Good Inroads in Waste Management

“We are very happy with the acquisition of AVR. It fits in well with CKI’s stringent investment requirements, generating immediate recurring cash flow with profitable and stable returns,” said Mr. H L Kam, Group Managing Director of CKI.

“CKI is making good inroads in the area of waste management. In the United Kingdom, Northumbrian Water is one of the leading companies treating waste water and sludge in the country. While, in New Zealand, EnviroWaste is one of the leading waste management companies in the country and operates the largest landfill there. The acquisition of AVR will see us investing in a leading waste management company in Europe, possessing the largest EfW plant capacity in the continent. With waste treatment being an imminent issue in most places around the world, we see good growth potential in this business,” expressed Mr. Kam.

This HK$9.7 billion AVR acquisition is the second waste treatment investment that CKI has participated in this year, following the HK$3.2 billion EnviroWaste acquisition which took place in January.

New Milestone for Power Assets

“The acquisition poses a new milestone for Power Assets. AVR represents an attractive diversification of our investment portfolio into the energy from waste industry,” commented Mr. CT Wan, Group Managing Director of Power Assets.

“Power Assets now has a strong portfolio of electricity generation and distribution, gas distribution as well as renewable energy business in six markets outside of Hong Kong. Furthering our strategy of expanding our portfolio outside of Hong Kong, the investment in AVR extends our geographic reach into the European Continent,” Mr. Wan continued.

The AVR acquisition transaction is subject to customary approvals, including a Central Works Council consultation process as well as approval pursuant to European Union Merger Regulation (EUMR). Completion of the transaction is expected to take place in the third quarter of the year.

Upon completion, AVR will become the newest investment in Cheung Kong Group’s portfolio in the Netherlands, which currently encompasses retail business and container port.
Together with AVR’s 430 employees, the Group will have about 20,000 staff in the Netherlands.