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LCQ14: Fuel mix and carbon dioxide reduction target

     Following is a question by the Hon Frederick Fung Kin-kee and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (July 17):


     In September 2010, the Government of the last term launched a public consultation on Hong Kong's climate change strategy and action agenda (strategy and action agenda), which included proposals for revamping the fuel mix for electricity generation. The public consultation ended in December of the same year, but the Government has yet to announce the consultation outcome and the ultimate proposals on the strategy and action agenda.  According to government information, as electricity generation accounts for as high as 67% of local greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing fuel mix for electricity generation is one of the important measures for reducing overall emission of carbon dioxide.  However, the authorities have yet to draw up the strategy on the future fuel mix for electricity generation.  On the other hand, the incumbent Chief Executive mentioned in his election manifesto the target that "in response to the global concerted action to mitigate climatic change, we must study and set a target for reducing the emission of carbon dioxide by 2020 and devise an all-round action plan".  However, the emission reduction targets set for 2015 and 2020 in collaboration with the Guangdong Province, as mentioned in CE's first Policy Address after assumption of office, have not included the targets for reducing the emission of carbon dioxide, and no specific measures and action plan have been introduced.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the differences between the Governments of the current and the last terms in relation to climate change strategy and action agenda; the latest emission reduction target for carbon dioxide; whether the Government plans to launch the public consultation afresh in this regard; if not, whether it will expeditiously announce the ultimate proposals on the strategy and action agenda;

(b) whether it has assessed the impact of the long absence of any strategy devised by the authorities with regard to the fuel mix for electricity generation, on the reduction target set by the Government of the last term (i.e. the reduction in carbon intensity by 50% to 60% by 2020 as compared with the level in 2005), and whether the Government of the current term will adjust the emission reduction target for carbon dioxide in view of such impact; and

(c) whether the Government of the current term will adopt the promotion of energy efficiency and the increase in the use of renewable energy as the major strategies for emission reduction (including a substantial increase in the proportion of renewable energy in the fuel mix for electricity generation, the introduction of demand side management on electricity consumption, etc.), and whether it will set a cap on the total amount of greenhouse gas emission, so as to replace the proposal of the Government of the last term to use carbon intensity as an emission reduction indicator; if it will not, of the reasons for that?



     Our replies to the specific questions raised by the Hon Frederick Fung are as follows:

(a) and (b) The Government attaches great importance to the work on combating climate change, and has been striving to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. As electricity generation accounts for most of the local GHG emissions (67% of total emissions), improving the fuel mix for electricity generation is an important strategy to reduce local GHG emissions and combat climate change.  

     At present, coal accounts for about 54% of Hong Kong's fuel mix for electricity generation, natural gas about 23% and imported nuclear energy about 23%. In late 2010, the Government published the "Hong Kong's Climate Change Strategy and Action Agenda" Consultation Document (the Consultation Document), and proposed to set a target to reduce carbon intensity (i.e. the amount of GHG or carbon emissions per unit of gross domestic product (GDP)) by 50% to 60% by 2020 as compared with the level in 2005. Targeting at the major sources of local carbon emission, the Government proposed at that time corresponding reduction measures, including improving our future fuel mix for electricity generation in 2020 by substantially reducing the reliance on fossil fuels, which are highly carbon-emitting, gradually retiring existing coal-fired generating units, and increasing the share of non-fossil, clean and low-carbon fuels, including importing more nuclear energy from the Mainland.

     While we were consolidating the views received upon conclusion of public consultation, the Fukushima nuclear incident took place as a result of the earthquake and tsunami hitting northeastern Japan. The Mainland authorities have thereafter undertaken to review nuclear safety and put on hold approval of new nuclear power plant projects. At the same time, various sectors in the community have expressed different views on the application of nuclear energy in Hong Kong. Different fuel sources have their own merits and demerits. In reviewing the overall fuel mix for electricity generation, we will strike a balance among the relevant energy policy objectives of safety, reliability, affordability and environmental protection, and maintain close liaison with the stakeholders.  We plan to consult the public on the future fuel mix within 2013, and will at the same time review the carbon intensity reduction target we proposed in 2010, with a view to combating climate change in collaboration with the global community.

(c) In the Consultation Document issued in 2010, we also proposed to mitigate climate change through demand side management measures, including enhancing energy efficiency, promoting green road transport, encouraging the use of clean fuels for motor vehicles, and turning waste to energy. We have embarked on these measures progressively.

     In respect of promoting the use of renewable energy (RE), a power company has already installed photovoltaic systems at its power plants, which generate about 1.1 million units of electricity annually. Both power companies are also studying the feasibility of developing offshore wind farms. Furthermore, the Government has put in great efforts to promote turning waste to energy. The sludge treatment facility under construction, for instance, will be equipped with facilities to turn thermal energy generated from incineration into electricity. Apart from meeting the electricity demand of the treatment facility, surplus electricity will be uploaded to the power grid.  However, we do not have the necessary conditions to develop RE facilities on an economical scale given the natural and geographical constraints and with the current state of technology.

     The Government has been promoting energy saving and enhancing energy efficiency through legislation, policy and public participation.  For example, in September 2012, the Buildings Energy Efficiency Ordinance (Cap. 610) came into full operation to maximise energy efficiency of major building services installations such as air-conditioning and lift installations.  We are also constructing a first-of-its-kind District Cooling System to provide a more energy-efficient air-conditioning system to the non-residential premises at Kai Tak Development.

     The Government has earlier this year set up an inter-departmental Steering Committee for the Promotion of Green Building under the chairmanship of the Secretary for the Environment to strengthen co-ordination among bureaux and departments in promoting green building development, and in formulating implementation strategies and action plans for the promotion of green building in both public and private sectors in Hong Kong, with a view to achieving further carbon emission reduction through energy saving. We have also been promoting community-wide participation in energy saving through various activities.  For instance, we have launched the Energy Saving Charter on Indoor Temperature and the Energy Saving Charter on "No Incandescent Light Bulbs" to encourage the community to reduce electricity consumption through air conditioning and to stop the use of less energy efficient incandescent light bulbs. To encourage consumers to select more energy efficient products, we have implemented the Energy Efficiency Labelling Schemes, and will consider expanding the schemes to cover more products.

     In addition, the Government is promoting the conduct of carbon audits in the community, which will enable better understanding of energy consumption characteristics and details of carbon emissions. This will help identify more room for reduction by energy saving and reducing GHG emissions. Since 2012/13, the Government has also taken the lead to conduct energy-cum-carbon audits for about 120 public facilities and schools by phases over a period of three years. We also encourage companies to conduct carbon audits through funding support provided by the Environment and Conservation Fund.

     We will continue to focus on measures targeting at major local GHG emission sources and adopt a two-pronged approach to reduce GHG emissions and combat climate change, including improving our future fuel mix for electricity generation and implementing demand side management measures.

Ends/Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:02


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