Lower emission levels in Hong Kong if government’s proposal pushed through

Plan aims for a decrease from 2021, and if it gets approval from Legislative Council, it will mark sixth time caps have been tightened since 2010

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 October, 2016, 8:32am
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 October, 2016, 8:32am

Hong Kong’s power plant emissions could see further cuts as the government proposes to reduce more air pollutants from 2021 when the city shifts its gears towards a more sustainable fuel mix.

The emission caps in the electricity sector for sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and respirable suspended particles (RSP) could be tightened by 8 per cent, 3 per cent and 6 per cent respectively under the sixth technical memorandum set between the city’s two power companies and the government.

The plan will be tabled at the Legislative Council next Wednesday, and if it gets a green light from lawmakers, it will mark the sixth time that caps have been lowered since 2010.

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“The latest electricity demand forecasts for 2021 for Hongkong Electric and CLP are expected to be lowered by 2.4 per cent and 1.4 per cent respectively as compared with those of 2020,” an Environmental Protection Department spokesman said.

“The tightened emission allowances will help improve air quality in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta region,” the department said. The decrease would bring emission levels for SO2, NOx and RSP down to 7,080 tonnes, 20,530 tonnes and 550 tonnes respectively.

The department said the new limits would mean that at least half of the city’s electricity generation would be obtained from natural gas by 2021, after factoring in imports of nuclear energy as well.

Dr Eric Tsang Po-keung, an associate professor at the Education University of Hong Kong’s department of science and environmental studies, said the government could take a more hardline stance towards the power companies.

“I think the government can be a little more ambitious with the reductions,” Tsang said.

He added that it could bargain with the two power companies on profit reduction if they did not commit to doing more for environmental protection.

A scheme of control agreements between the power suppliers and the government, which will expire in 2018, caps their annual returns at 9.99 per cent of net fixed assets.

Spokesmen from both power companies said it would be “extremely challenging” to comply with the new proposed emissions allowances, but they would try their best to manage their plant performance and fuel expenditures to meet the required targets.

Last year, the government approved targets to slash emissions by 17 per cent for SO2 and NOx, and by 16 per cent for RSP by 2020.

The government is set to review the memorandum again next year as required by the Air Pollution Control Ordinance.