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LCQ22: Renewable Energy

     Following is a question by the Hon Chan Hak-kan and a written reply by the Secretary for the Environment, Mr Wong Kam-sing, in the Legislative Council today (October 23):


     In 2008, the Hong Kong Government and the Shenzhen Municipal Government announced their collaboration in developing the "Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation Circle" technology project, with a view to establishing a Solar Energy Research and Industrial Platform together.  The Financial Secretary said at that time, "solar energy was a clean and sustainable energy resource.  The development of solar energy would help reduce the use of fossil fuels in generating electricity.  This would in turn help to reduce air pollution and the effects of global warming."  In 2009, the Commissioner for Innovation and Technology advised that the Government would promote and facilitate wider use of solar photovoltaic and cleaner energy.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a)  of the latest progress of the "Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation Circle" technology project;

(b)  whether it knows the growth rate of solar power generation as well as the annual output of electricity generated with the use of renewable energy (including solar energy) by the two power companies in the past five years, and the percentage of such output in the overall electricity output, together with the impact on electricity tariffs;

(c)  whether it knows the current output of electricity generated by solar energy in Hong Kong, and the percentage of such output in Hong Kong's overall electricity output;

(d)  whether it knows which solar power generation projects are being undertaken by the two power companies, as well as the details of such projects (including the electricity output, time of generation, maintenance costs and the usage of such electricity power, etc.);

(e)  whether it knows the costs of solar power generation at present, and how such costs compare with those of other means of power generation;

(f)  whether the Government has set any target for the growth of solar power generation; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(g)  apart from providing financial assistance, of the ways in which the Government will help the two power companies increase the use of renewable energy (including solar energy) for electricity generation;

(h)  of the government buildings and public facilities currently using solar energy to generate electricity; and

(i)  whether the Government has considered installing solar power facilities in formed land not suitable for large building development, vacant government land (e.g. closed landfills) or rooftops of government buildings; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



(a)  According to the Innovation and Technology Commission, the "Research on High Efficiency Amorphous Si Solar Cells by Introducing New Functional Materials", an Research and Development (R&D) project jointly conducted by the Nano and Advanced Materials Institute (NAMI) and DuPont Apollo Limited (DuPont) under the co-operation framework of the Solar Energy Research and Industrial Platform of the "Shenzhen-Hong Kong Innovation Circle", was completed in April 2011.  This project aimed to develop new materials and technology for solar cells to enhance the capacity and life span of existing products and reduce system cost.  DuPont has also developed a 10-kilowatt (kW) solar cell demonstration system which was installed at Tseung Kwan O Hospital at DuPont's own cost and commenced operation in March 2012.  NAMI and DuPont launched their second R&D project on the "Research on Multi-Junction Silicon-Based Thin Film Solar Cells for Conversion Efficiency Improvement" in January 2013, which is expected to complete in July 2014.

(b) and (c)  In 2012, the total local electricity sale was 43 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh).  The estimated total electricity generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) systems in Hong Kong (including electricity generated from PV facilities not connected to the power grid) was around 2.2 million kWh.  According to information collected by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD), in 2012, the installed capacity of PV system in Hong Kong was around 2 210 kW. When compared with 2008, there was a growth of 78% during the four-year period.

     The renewable energy (RE) electricity generated by Hongkong Electric Company Limited (HKE) in 2008 to 2012 was 0.8 million kWh, 1.1 million kWh, 1.4 kWh, 1.6 million kWh and 1.9 million kWh respectively. According to CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP)'s records since 2009, the average RE electricity generated by CLP in the past four years was approximately 20 000 kWh per year.  The generation of renewable electricity is more costly than traditional electricity generation.  However, as renewable electricity only accounts a small percentage of the total electricity generation of the two power companies, its tariff impact is minimal.

(d)  HKE's first solar power system at Lamma Power Station was commissioned in July 2010.  The system which was erected on the rooftop of the Main Station Building inside Lamma Power Station comprises 5 500 thin-film PV modules of a total capacity of 550 kW and covers a total area of 8 470 square metres.  HKE completed the expansion of its solar power system in March this year, which has increased the system's capacity to 1 000 kW.  The expanded portion of the system has adopted the more advanced amorphous/microcrystalline silicon tandem junction thin-film PV modules, with better electricity-generating capacity.  The solar power system has been connected to the power grid for providing electricity to HKE's customers.

      At present, HKE only needs to carry out routine maintenance and cleaning for the solar power system, and the related costs are minimal.  As the failure rate of a solar power system is closely related to its years of service, and that HKE's solar power system is quite new, the maintenance costs of the solar panels and inverters may increase over time.  

      On the other hand, the largest renewable generation plant for CLP in Hong Kong is installed on Town Island to supply electricity to the drug rehabilitation centre.  It consists of 672 solar panels and two wind turbines with capacity of up to 200 kW. The first phase (20 kW) was commissioned in January 2010 and the second phase (170 kW) was completed in December 2012.  There are also small scale PV systems installed in CLP's buildings.

(e)  The electricity generation cost of RE is determined by the scale of installation, the technology adopted, the geographical location and the actual sent-out electricity etc., and the latter is affected by the climate (such as the strength and timing of sunshine).  On the other hand, the cost of traditional electricity generation is more prone to movements in fuel costs.  Generally speaking, electricity generation cost of RE is a few times higher than that of traditional electricity generation.

(f)  To effectively combat climate change and improve air quality, the Government proposed in 2010 improvement in the fuel mix for power generation by substantially reducing the reliance on coal to less than 10% and increasing the share of natural gas and RE to about 40% and 3-4% respectively in 2020, with the remaining balance of about 50% to be met by imported nuclear energy from the Mainland.  However, following the Fukushima incident, various sectors in the community have different views on the application of nuclear energy.  We are reviewing the future fuel mix for power generation and will strive to strike a balance among the considerations of safety, reliability, affordability and environmental protection.  We plan to consult the public on this matter before the end of this year.

(g)  To encourage wider adoption of RE in private buildings and organisations, the Government has been providing tax incentives since 2008 on the capital expenditure incurred in relation to installation of RE power systems in private premises.  The capital expenditure of the private organisation's RE power system in building can be deducted over a 5-year period starting from the year of purchase.  To help the public better understand the application of RE technologies, EMSD has published on its website relevant information, guidance notes and guidelines on RE.  It has also launched a thematic website "HK RE Net" to provide technical details and information about RE.

     To promote the development of RE, the Government has provided economic incentives to the power companies under the Scheme of Control Agreements in terms of a higher permitted rate of return for their investment in RE facilities, and a bonus in permitted return depending on the extent to which RE is used in electricity generation.

(h) and (i)  The Government is committed to promoting the adoption and development of RE, by taking the lead where technically feasible and cost effective.

     In 2005, the Government issued a technical circular on "Adoption of Energy Efficient Features and Renewable Energy Technologies in Government Projects and Installations", requiring Government departments to consider the adoption of RE technologies (including solar PV systems) in all new Government buildings and major retrofitting projects in existing Government buildings.  The technical circular also mentioned that for buildings with footprint area greater than 1 000 square meters, PV panels should be installed where practicable with due consideration given to the shading effects caused by nearby buildings/ structures.  Besides, the Development Bureau and the Environment Bureau promulgated in 2009 a target for application of RE in Government buildings.  All new schools and educational buildings without air-conditioning should aim to have at least 0.5% of their electricity consumption to be provided by RE where technically and financially viable.  Other new Government buildings should also incorporate RE technologies as far as reasonably practicable.  

     With due regard to actual site conditions, the Government has been installing PV systems in various Government buildings and public facilities including Government offices, departmental headquarters, fire stations, prisons, museums, art and cultural venues, parks, playgrounds, town halls, recreational centres, holiday villages, theaters, Government quarters, hospitals, schools and sewage treatment plants, etc.  As at March 2013, over 100 solar PV projects have been completed in Government buildings and public facilities.  For example, the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) has installed a 13kW PV system at a rooftop of the Chemical Waste Treatment Centre in Tsing Yi, which commenced operation in February this year.

     As regards the 13 closed landfills where the restoration works have been completed, they have gradually been developed into recreation grounds, sports facilities, parks and other recreational uses.  Any development on restored landfill sites should be considered with regard to its compatibility with the existing restoration facilities (including mainly the capping layer, landfill gas and landfill leachate management systems) and their day-to-day operation.  The EPD will keep in view the development and application of solar power at restored landfill sites.

Ends/Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Issued at HKT 12:32


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