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We should explore the use of offshore wave and tidal power

SCMP    letter from readers  22 sept 2010

The Environmental Protection Department issued a target of slashing carbon emissions in Hong Kong by up to 33 per cent in a decade, while positive action is awaited on mandating the city’s air quality standards. Some green groups quoted by the South China Morning Post(SEHK: 0583announcementsnews) (not Clear the Air) commented that increased nuclear imports proposed by the government were not the solution to reducing local carbon emissions.

The US Environmental Protection Agency figures for CO{-2} (carbon dioxide), sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions for coal-powered generation per each megawatt hour of electricity produced (kilograms) are 1,022/5.9/2.73 respectively. For natural gas the kilograms emissions are 516/0.045 /0.77 respectively. The emissions for nuclear power generation are zero.

CLP Power (SEHK: 0002)’s sustainability report states it intends to move towards a 50 per cent fuel mix using natural gas and to import more nuclear power. CLP also has rights to import 50 per cent of the capacity of Phase 1 of the Guangzhou Pumped Storage Power Station at Conghua. CLP Power is converting its A station at Castle Peak to natural gas-powered turbines while its B station has been retrofitted with desulphurisation units to allow it (unfortunately) to continue to burn coal.

In 2009, the fuel mix for CLP Power for locally supplied power was – coal, 44.5 per cent; nuclear, 30.6 per cent; gas, 24.7 per cent; oil, 0.2 per cent.

Figures for Hongkong Electric (SEHK: 0006)’s fuel mix in 2009 were – 20 per cent gas, 80 per cent coal. It stated it intended to increase its gas mix to 30 per cent in 2010. The figures show which power company is relying more on polluting fossil fuel as its major source of energy production.

Hong Kong lacks the land area for large renewable energy solar plants that are used in California, and wind power stations in Scandinavia, the mainland and India. Neither does it have rivers that could produce clean hydroelectric power. It is, however, surrounded by sea, and the relevant authorities should explore the use of offshore wave and tidal power in the long term.

The two local power companies should fully interconnect with the mainland grid to reduce back-up, and hence less wastage, and have a more flexible connection capability (as in Australia) where households can sell their excess solar power back to the grid.

The cost of a typical CO{-2} capture system for a small, 800-megawatt (MW) fossil fuel power station could cost US$750 million, thus possibly affecting Scheme of Control agreements. By comparison, Castle Peak Power Company’s local installed capacity is 6,908 MW and Hongkong Electric’s installed capacity is 3,756 MW.

Meanwhile, there is a dire need for emissions control area legislation to restrict the burning of bunker fuel in Pearl River Delta coastal waters. Also, we need to see the removal of pre-Euro and Euro I diesel vehicles from our roads.

James Middleton, chairman, energy committee, Clear the Air

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