• Fri
  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 2:38am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Energy importation plan can be made to work

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 3:37am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 May, 2014, 3:37am

Hong Kong has a chip on its shoulder where infrastructure is concerned. It takes pride in its transport networks and state-of-the-art communications. A government suggestion that 30 per cent of electricity should come from the mainland has therefore been met with concern in some quarters. Reliability will be put at risk if such a proposal is adopted, the argument against goes.

The idea of importing electricity was put forward in a government consultation launched in March on meeting rising energy demands and making power production less polluting. Two proposals were offered: an import option providing by 2023 a fuel mix of 10 per cent coal, 20 per cent nuclear, 30 per cent imported electricity and 40 per cent gas; and local generation, which aimed for by 2020 a mix of 20 per cent coal, 20 per cent nuclear and 60 per cent gas. There are advantages and drawbacks with both, cost being a significant factor. But most glaring for proponents of Hong Kong's infrastructure superiority is that under the first choice, half of our electricity would be produced by the Daya Bay nuclear power plant and China Southern Power Grid.

Of Daya Bay's reliability there is little doubt. Quarter-owned by Hong Kong-listed CLP Holdings, it has been providing electricity to our city for two decades. But CSG does not have as solid a record of supply reliability as local power producers CLP and Hongkong Electric, raising concerns about reputation and business attractiveness should it be added to our electricity grid. It is a valid concern, especially for the financial and medical sectors. Such thinking does not account for statistics and technological upgrading, however.

Superficially, there is only a small difference in reliability of the output of CSG and Hong Kong's two producers. The average customer in Shenzhen had power 99.98 per cent of the time in 2012, while for Guangzhou, the rate was 99.97 per cent. But both are below Hong Kong's minimum standard of 99.99.

Our electricity bills can be kept in check and pollution from power plants reined in if energy is produced in Guangdong. Standards have to match Hong Kong requirements, though. That is happening with our water, most of which comes from Guangdong's Dongjiang, or East River, so this is surely possible with electricity. Were the importation proposal to be adopted, requirements could be readily achieved by 2023 through co-operation, sharing of expertise and upgrading infrastructure.


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OldPeak Toad
The basic flaw in this discussion about fuel mix and import of electricity into Hong Kong, is not to question the way electricity is supplied in Hong Kong. To keep two utility monopolies in Hong Kong is deepest pre-1997 thinking. One country two systems
was not meant to extend over infrastructure, did it?
Why should Hong Kong with some 7 million people have two utilities with some
13,000 MW generation capacity, more than half of it based on technology that is gradually surpassed by new power plants in China, and on that basis set its fuel mix targets? Whatever the Hong Kong fuel mix
will be, next-door Guangdong with 100 million people and some 100,000 MW
mostly coal fired, will make the Hong Kong’s targets totally meaningless.
The criteria for the supply of power in Guangdong AND Hong Kong should not be the fuel
mix, but thermal efficiency, levels of emissions, and the price for electricity.
The scheme of control should NOT be extended after the current term, the two Hong Kong utilities should be unbundled (de-regulated) and become part of a South China energy supply system, where generators will be dispatched as mentioned above.
If CLP and HEC can be competitive from Hong Kong in such environment, fine - if not, they have no justification for keeping power plants in Hong Kong.
Let's not get hung up on reliability. It is also pre-1997 thinking. How come Macau does so well, with more and more electricity imported from China?
The biggest air polluter in Hong Kong is the coal burning electrical plants. Hong Kong Electric probably has much a larger share than China Light and Power. The latter has been getting electricity partly from its Shenzhen’s Nuclear power plant and another plant is planned for the future.
It is a fool who would argue about dependability and against buying nuclear power generated electricity from mainland. Equally a fool if such nonsensical argument is accepted.
Go nuclear before chocking to death by the coal burning power plants in Hong Kong -- the biggest air pollutier in Hong Kong.
I will advise CY Leung to just get on with it sooner the better. The buck should stop at your desk and not someone else's pocket.


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