Hong Kong to replace coal with nuclear

15 September 2010

A consultation put to the people of Hong Kong suggests an increase in nuclear capacity to supply half of electricity as a major plank of its climate change strategy. 


HK consultation cover
The cover of the consultation document
The Special Administrative Region's government has explained its proposed approach to mitigation in a consultation document out for public comment until the end of the year. It covers five sectors: energy efficiency, road transport, road fuels, turning waste to energy and "revamping the fuel mix for electricity generation."


"Our objective is to reduce the proportion of coal in the overall fuel mix," said the document. The fossil fuel currently "dominates" city power supplies with 54% of generation, while 23% comes from natural gas.


With renewables neglibigle to date, the remaining 23% comes from CLP Power Hong Kong Limited's 25% stake in two 984 MWe reactors at Daya Bay in Guangdong Province. Some 70% of the power plant's output is routed to Hong Kong.


New coal power plants have not been allowed since 1997 and the latest units, from the 1980s, will retire in the period 2020-30. To handle the drop in coal's contribution below 10% by 2020, the government wants to increase natural gas generation to meet 40% of supply and to boost nuclear to 50%. Renewables are expected to grow to 3%, and remaining coal units would be kept on low utilization rates as reserve.


Boosting nuclear power is seen as the best way of replacing coal and thereby improving air quality - 1994 saw annual greenhouse gas emissions cut by about 7 million tonnes as imports began from Daya Bay. The other option, natural gas, would enable the city to cut greenhouse gases by about 50% compared to the coal generation replaced.


Despite certain policy independence, Hong Kong is bound by the climate change promises made by the Chinese Central Government in November 2009. These set a national target to reduce carbon intensity by 40-45% for each unit of national income, with nuclear power key to this along with efficiency and renewables. However, Hong Kong aythorities have set an ambitious absolute target of a 50-60% reduction in emissions by 2020. This is backed up by an agreement between Hong Kong and the government of Guangdong Province concerning the Pearl River Delta - a region home to up to 120 million people, many concentrated in large cities. A framework agreement between the two governments supports the aims of "gradually phasing out coal-fired generators in Hong Kong" and increasing the supply of "nuclear and other clean energy" to the city.


In its response to the consultation, CLP said it supports the government direction in leading the city towards a low-carbon economy. In September last year CLP's arrangements to take 70% of Daya Bay's output was extended to 2034 and in July the utility announced another nuclear investment. It will take a 17% stake in the Yangjiang nuclear power plant, where six nuclear power reactors should be in operation by 2017. Both these deals are between CLP and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Company.


The company said that increasing the import of nuclear power was feasible but would require a lot of work over the next decade: "If concensus is reached among the community that this is the right direction to go, we have to move fast." Commercial discussions take time, CLP warned, as does the establishment of cross-border infrastructure.


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News