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Gains From Natural Gas Power Will Be Lost If Consumption Soars

Updated on Oct 03, 2008 – SCMP

I refer to the article by Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah (“A cleaner, cheaper energy future for Hong Kong“, September 23).

Replacing coal with natural gas for electricity generation is no doubt a great step towards controlling the sulfur dioxide (SO{-2}) emissions that are a significant source of damage to the air quality in Hong Kong. It is also good news for consumers in Hong Kong to hear that the excessive capital outlay and direct environmental impact will be minimised with the change of plan to build the liquefied natural gas terminal on the mainland instead of on the Soko Islands.

While this plan seems to echo our government’s commitment to tackle the air pollution problem, it has unfortunately also shown the administration’s political myopia.

Excessive SO{-2} emissions are a direct consequence of excess energy demand.

If the government does not seek to reduce energy use in tandem with switching to cleaner fuel, no sustainable change is going to happen.

In a way, the removal of the HK$10 billion capital outlay for the Soko Islands plant (hence the cost of power is likely to remain at the present level) almost encourages consumption.

It gives consumers a false sense that “it is okay to use power now because it is clean”.

Nevertheless, CLP Power and Hongkong Electric are for-profit organisations. They would be shooting themselves in the foot if they endorsed plans that reduced consumption.

Finally, another closely related problem is that nearly half of our air pollution comes from north of the border.

It is of no use if only Hong Kong regulates the use of coal for fuel and the desulfurisation requirements. The same standards must be applied in cities in the Pearl River Delta in order to achieve the intended results.

Pollution is a difficult problem. The lobbying will get ugly and some aspects of the economy will be compromised, but we must trust that the Hong Kong government is aware of what needs to be done and will endeavour to achieve what is best for us.

Michelle M. Lee, Mid-Levels

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