Cheung Chi-fai – SCMP – Updated on Apr 11, 2008
Electricity tariffs might go up by as much as a third if power suppliers are to cut their carbon emissions significantly, a government source has hinted.
The rough estimate was revealed to the South China Morning Post yesterday as lawmakers and green groups were pressing the government to make carbon dioxide a statutory air pollutant, and set carbon caps for power plants.
Officials have made it clear that any such a move is not imminent but could not be ruled out in the future.
The source said power-station carbon emissions could be lowered if natural gas was made the dominant fuel, but whether it should be achieved “at all costs” was subject to further debate.
The fuel mix could change, he said, and “the remaining two options are either retrofitting [existing plants with technology that cuts carbon emissions] or emissions trading”.
The source did not say exactly what emissions reduction a 30 per cent rise in power fees would achieve.
At the first scrutiny of a proposed amendment to the Air Pollution Control Ordinance yesterday, legislators from major parties asked why officials had failed to take the opportunity to regulate carbon emissions in the bill. The amendment is aimed at including in the bill statutory backing for emissions caps on power plants in relation to three air pollutants that have a direct impact on the health of the population.
It also spells out the general rules of emissions trading in case power firms fail to meet caps.
Lawmaker Alan Leong Kah-kit, of the Civic Party, said it would do no harm if a carbon cap were imposed on power plants even if it were frozen until the government felt comfortable about tightening it.
“At least we can cap the carbon emissions at existing levels and ensure that the power plants will not do worse than that,” he said.
Benny Wong Yiu-kam, the assistant director of environmental protection, said at the meeting that electricity costs could see sharp increases if the power companies were asked to scrap their coal-fired power stations and replace them with gas-fired plants.
He said gas prices had increased greatly in recent years.
Greenpeace activist Frances Yeung Hoi-shan said the cost for cutting power-plant carbon output might not be as high as officials claimed.
She said power plants could use a mix of strategies simultaneously – energy conservation, emissions trading, use of renewable energy and more use of natural gas.