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HK on course to reach emission-reduction target

Mar 4, 2011

Hong Kong looks likely to reach or even surpass air pollution-cutting targets under a cross-border pact – a payoff for retrofitting the city’s largest coal-fired power plant with emission control devices, said Edward Yau Tang-wah, secretary for the environment.

But it remains unknown whether neighbouring Guangdong has achieved the targets agreed with Hong Kong in 2002. The two sides aimed to cut emissions of major pollutants by 20 per cent to 55 per cent below 1997 levels by 2010.

“Although the final emission figures are still being complied, I am very confident that on our side, Hong Kong will meet or even surpass the targets. I think this is what the public want to see,” Yau said at a ceremony to mark the completion of the emission control project by CLP Power.

CLP Power emissions in 2010 generally fell by 60 per cent compared with the base year 1997, outperforming the reductions required by the government, the company said.

While Hong Kong and Guangdong were still discussing how to further reduce emissions in the next decade, Yau said the next steps for local power plants were stricter emission caps and a greener fuel mix.

According to CLP Power, emissions at its two operating power stations for three major pollutants last year were 28 per cent to 58 per cent lower than 2009. But it did not provide a breakdown for individual stations.

It said some reductions were made possible by the introduction of low-sulphur coal in 2005. But most of the improvements came from retrofitting four coal-fired generation units, 667 megawatts each, at the Castle Peak Power Station with devices that can reduce levels of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and respirable suspended particles.

The HK$9 billion retrofit equipped the plants with scrubbers that can remove sulphur dioxides by up to 90 per cent and selective catalytic reduction devices that can cut nitrogen oxides by up to 80 per cent.

Three of the four units are now in full operation and the last unit is expected to start running by this year’s second quarter. The retrofit programme does not cover older generation units with a total of 1,400 megawatts; these units, which date to at least 1982, are near the end of their lifespan.

Richard Lancaster, managing director of CLP Power, said the retrofit had made the power station one of the cleanest coal-fired power plants in the world.

“It is an important milestone in a journey,” Lancaster said, “and the government has set us further milestones: new emission caps in 2015 and fuel mix in 2020, which are challenging targets for us.”

The 2015 cap will require the power supplier to cut emissions by up to 64 per cent below 2010 levels.

The government has also proposed changing its reliance on different sources of electricity to a mix of 50 per cent nuclear, 40 per cent gas and 10 per cent coal by 2020. Coal, nuclear and gas each account for a third of CLP’s electricity.

Asked if the retrofit would be made redundant if coal-fired power generation is to shrink, Lancaster said the retrofit would still be needed in the next 10 years.

Copyright (c) 2011. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.

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