On 19 March 2013, the Hong Kong government environment department issued a public consultation paper on the city's future fuel resources mix for electricity generation inquiring the public whether to significantly increase the natural gas consumption or to import electricity from China Southern Power Grid Co. Limited (CSG) in order to meet the city's growing demand for electricity considering safety, reliability, cost and environmental performance etc.
Regarding energy sources to power Hong Kong in 2012, coal dominated the overall fuel mix (53%), followed by nuclear electricity imported from Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station (DBNPS) in the Mainland (23%), natural gas (22%), and oil and renewable energy (2%). Because coal is the most polluted energy resources, Hong Kong has not allowed power companies to build new coal-fired electricity generating units since 1997, and the current units will be phased out eventually in the future according to the government. However, the power demand of Hong Kong has been growing at an average rate of 1%-2% per annum in recent years. Therefore, plan must be carefully made ahead to meet the gap between demand and capacity.
To fill the gap left over by the retirement schedule of coal-fired electricity generating units, the authority concluded their plan with two options to select with. Plan A is to purchase 50% of Hong Kong's electricity demand from the Mainland with the remaining 50% to be generated locally. In Plan B, Hong Kong is to generate 80% of its demand locally, and the remaining 20% will be purchased from DBNPS.
In both Plans, Hong Kong will rely heavily on natural gas that 40% and 60% of the total electricity demand will be generated by natural gas in Plan A and Plan B respectively. The real consideration and difference are regarding the 30% of Hong Kong future electricity demand. Plan A covers this demand through purchase from Mainland CSG while Plan B keeps the 30% capacity locally at the expense of burning 50% more natural gas and consume the double amount of coal in comparison with the former plan.
Cleaner air is the top consideration for the proposed energy plan. To improve air quality, Hong Kong has made a lot effort. With respect to the legislation respect, from 2015 merchant vessels will be compelled by law to use bunker containing less than 0.005% sulphur while staying in Hong Kong waters, and power plants are obliged to reduce emissions gradually as the government has been progressively tightening up the statutory emission caps for SO2, NOX and RSP. Regarding Plan A, it seems to be the cleaner option that significantly reduces the consumption of coal and natural gas. However, Plan A will damage Hong Kong's local employment in comparison with Plan B. It is interesting to see how Hong Kong will decide upon those conflicting interests for its energy policy of the next ten years.
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