WIND ENERGY POTENTIAL HUGELY UNDERESTIMATED
The renewable energy study commissioned by the Hong Kong government and released last month raises grave concerns among those who care about the future of renewable energy development in Hong Kong.
There are two points worth noting. First, the study has hugely underestimated the potential for renewable energy by excluding such sources in China. Renewable energy requires big-scale development and this is particularly true for wind energy.
Looking around the world, once economies of scale are achieved with appropriate financial incentives, the price of wind energy attains the same level as conventional energy, even without counting the social costs of fossil fuels.
Guangdong is rich in wind energy and is one of the best regions close to Hong Kong in which to build large wind farms.
It is disappointing that this study limits its scope to Hong Kong and fails to go to the other side of the border to look into the potential of importing wind energy.
Second, the study heavily skews Hong Kong's renewable energy source to include energy from waste. If this is not classified as a form of renewable energy, the study's target of 1 per cent renewable energy to meet annual power demand by 2012 will be substantially reduced to less than 0.1 per cent.
This virtual zero target for the next 10 years is so perplexing that the report was sniffed at as one 'that should be rewritten' by legislators at a Legco panel meeting.
The study has clouded the real issues and dodged questions for a wide-scale application of renewable energy in Hong Kong.
One major issue which has not been duly addressed is the inter-connection of local and regional power grids, which would be highly beneficial to the Hong Kong economy and enable wide-scale development of renewable energy. However, such a move would go against existing energy policy and corporate interests.
An obvious implication is that even though Guangdong has great potential to supply cost-competitive wind energy to Hong Kong, Hong Kong Electric - physically isolated from the Guangdong power grid because of China Light and Power's grid in the New Territories - will have no access to it. Of course, Hong Kong Electric may look elsewhere and import cheap wind energy from perhaps Zhuhai, which started monitoring wind data several years ago. But the additional costs of laying submarine cable would not seem to make this option attractive.
It might go beyond the scope of this study to deal with the intractable inter-connection issue. But renewable sources from Guangdong are one crucial factor that cannot afford to be overlooked, as this is where the future application of renewable energy lies.
To set a level playing field for renewable energy, Hong Kong has to clear all the roadblocks imposed by the existing energy policy and Scheme of Control Agreements signed between the administration and the two local power companies.
Coming later this year is the interim review of the Scheme of Control Agreements, which will set the course for the 2008 final review. This is the opportune time to show the Hong Kong public that there is a genuine political commitment to promoting renewable energy.
Thus far we have seen an executive summary of the report. We call for the release of the full version.
Friends of the Earth