There are efforts to reduce air pollution by relying less on coal for our electricity. To do this the government has to adjust the energy fuel mix.
How do we get our electricity?
In 2012, most of our electricity - 53 percent– was generated by coal. Nuclear power from the Daya Bay Nuclear Plant across the border accounted for 23 percent, natural gas 22 percent while the remaining 2 percent came from oil and renewable energy. Two private firms – Hong Kong Electric Company and CLP Group – supply all our power.
What is wrong with the current arrangement?
FOR decades, Hong Kong depended on coal to produce electricity because it was cheap. But burning coal produces greenhouse gas – the culprit behind global warming. Coal-fi red plants are blamed for half of all greenhouse-gas emissions in Hong Kong. Coal and other fossil fuels, including petroleum, release air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and respirable suspended particulates. These are detrimental to health. That is why the government wants to find a cleaner and sustainable fuel mix.
How do we tweak the energy fuel mix?
TRADITIONAL coal-fired plants will be retired from 2017 onwards. In the Future Fuel Mix for Electricity Generation Consultation Document, two proposals were mentioned:
One is to increase the use of natural gas (up to 60 percent). Natural gas is a type of fossil fuel which emits significantly less greenhouse gases than coal. Natural gas constitutes 20 percent of world electricity generation and is in big demand, which means that its price is subject to market fluctuations.
The second proposal is to buy up to 30 percent of electricity from mainland power plants. Doing so means that Hong Kong could save on construction and operation costs and greenhouse-gas emissions locally will be minimal. But there are doubts about the reliability of mainland power supplies. Macau, which imports 90 percent of its energy from the mainland, has encountered major blackouts in the past because of power failure at plants across the border.
The government is also planning to use renewable energy by building an offshore wind farm and converting energy to waste in incinerators. However, renewable energy is expensive and is expected to meet only 2 percent of Hong Kong’s energy needs.
THERE is no perfect solution to the energy fuel mix in Hong Kong. However, we can all play a part in reducing the energy demand by reducing our daily electricity use.