LCQ4: Use of clean energy for electricity generation


     Following is a question by the Hon Kwok Wai-keung and a reply by the Secretary for Environment and Ecology, Mr Tse Chin-wan, in the Legislative Council today (March 15):


There are views pointing out that in order to more effectively work towards reaching carbon neutrality and achieve the interim target of reducing carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2035, Hong Kong needs to seriously discuss the phasing out of fossil energy and the development or import of clean energy. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) of the data on the use of coal and natural gas for electricity generation in Hong Kong by the two power companies respectively, and when the relevant generating units used will retire; whether the Government has stipulated the time by which the two power companies must cease coal-fired electricity generation completely; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;

(2) whether the authorities will consider purchasing clean energy from Mainland power companies, so as to reduce the pollutants produced by power plants during electricity generation in Hong Kong and draw down carbon emissions; if so, of the progress; if not, the reasons for that; whether they will request the two power companies to dovetail with the relevant plan; and

(3) given that the Government will set up important strategic electricity facilities (including power receiving and conversion facilities) on the land created off Tseung Kwan O Area 132 for enhancing Hong Kong's capability to import zero-carbon energy through regional co-operation, whether such facilities will be financed and constructed by the Government or the two power companies, and of the expected implementation timetable as well as the proportion of the electricity to be supplied by them in the total electricity supply of Hong Kong?



(1) It is the Government's longstanding policy to ensure that the electricity demand of the community is met safely, reliably, efficiently and at reasonable prices, while minimising the environmental impact of electricity generation.

To reduce the emission of pollutants, Hong Kong has ceased to build coal-fired generating units since 1997. The two power companies have been gradually replacing coal-fired generation as required by the Government. The share of coal in Hong Kong's overall fuel mix for electricity generation has been reduced from about half in 2015 to about a quarter at present, while the share of natural gas has significantly increased from about a quarter to almost half.

The share of natural gas in the CLP Power Hong Kong Limited (CLP)'s fuel mix for electricity generation has increased from about 25 per cent in 2015 to about 50 per cent at present, while the share of coal has been reduced from about 40 per cent to about 20 per cent. The share of nuclear electricity imported from the Mainland has been maintained at around 30 per cent.

As for the Hongkong Electric Company Limited, the share of natural gas in its fuel mix for electricity generation has increased from about 35 per cent in 2015 to the current level of about 50 per cent, while the share of coal has been reduced from about 65 per cent to about 50 per cent.

The Government has set "net-zero electricity generation" as one of the decarbonisation strategies in the Hong Kong's Climate Action Plan 2050 promulgated in 2021. We have set the target of ceasing the use of coal for daily electricity generation by 2035, and only keeping it for providing backup support. We will also increase the share of zero-carbon energy in the fuel mix for electricity generation to around 60 per cent to 70 per cent to help achieve the target of reducing carbon emissions by half before 2035 from the 2005 level.

The coal-fired generating units of the two power companies will gradually retire in the coming decade or so. We will discuss the specific retirement date of each coal-fired generating unit with the two power companies, taking into account factors including electricity demand, stability of electricity supply and operating conditions of existing generating units.

(2) Hong Kong has no resources for electricity generation. In addition to relying on imported fuel for local electricity generation, the CLP also invests and manages the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station (DBNPS) in co-operation with Mainland enterprises through its wholly-owned Hong Kong Nuclear Investment Company Limited. Since 1994, Hong Kong has been importing nuclear electricity from the DBNPS, which currently accounts for around a quarter of Hong Kong's fuel mix for electricity generation.

The CLP imports electricity through its Clean Energy Transmission System (CETS) connected to the DBNPS and the power network of the China Southern Power Grid. The Government approved in 2018 CLP's 2018-23 Development Plan, which includes the CETS enhancement project, under which overhead lines will be replaced to increase the transmission capacity. Upon its completion in 2025, the project is expected to provide Hong Kong with greater flexibility to import more clean energy, and the share of electricity imported from the Mainland in our fuel mix for electricity generation may be increased to about 35 per cent.

The past two years has seen a surge in international energy prices. Amid the energy crisis aggravated by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine since early last year, international fuel prices have accelerated rapidly. To stabilise electricity tariffs in the long term and rely less on fossil fuels for electricity generation, we will continue to explore various measures including enhancing regional co-operation, developing a diversified fuel mix and increasing the use of zero-carbon energy.

The Central People's Government has been supporting Hong Kong to increase the use of clean energy, with a view to reducing emissions and improving air quality. The National Energy Administration (NEA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Energy Co-operation with the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) Government in 2008 in support of the long-term supply of nuclear electricity and natural gas to Hong Kong. The Environment and Ecology Bureau is also actively discussing with the NEA to further increase the supply of zero-carbon energy to Hong Kong. We will not rule out the possibility of purchasing any kind of zero-carbon energy, including nuclear electricity and all types of renewable energy, from the Mainland and will also explore the feasibility of developing zero-carbon energy projects near Hong Kong.

(3) To meet the future needs to increase the use of zero-carbon energy in Hong Kong, we have to plan ahead for the construction of new infrastructure for receiving and processing electricity transmitted to Hong Kong from other regions.

The Electricity Facilities to be built on the land reserved by the Government in Tseung Kwan O Area 132 is a strategic facility to enhance regional energy co-operation. It is also important for stabilising future electricity tariffs and promoting low-carbon energy transition in Hong Kong. The Electricity Facilities will connect to the electricity supply systems of the two power companies in the future, and can strengthen the interconnection between the two power companies and the ability of electricity transmission, thereby helping to stabilise electricity tariffs and reduce emissions from local power plants in the long run for the benefit of members of the public in Hong Kong.

The project is currently still in the preliminary planning stage. We estimate that it will take around ten years to plan, construct and complete the new cross-boundary electricity transmission and receiving facilities. The Electricity Facilities are expected to be commissioned before 2035, and the share of imported zero-carbon energy electricity may have a further increase of 30 per cent by then.

President, serving the overall interests of the community tops the agenda of the HKSAR Government's administration. We will explore and study various long-term proposals for the development of Electricity Facilities while cautiously scrutinising the capital investment proposals submitted by the two power companies under the framework of the Scheme of Control Agreements, thereby striving to safeguard the interests of the general public.

Thank you, President.

Ends/Wednesday, March 15, 2023
Issued at HKT 15:05