In years past that referred to the difference between the thinking of the older generation and the younger generation. Today it can be used to describe the difference between how much electricity is being generated versus how much is needed.
Since 2007 it is estimated that nearly 60% of Hong Kong’s 80,000 factories have closed and with power outages that can last days still being the reality, many more factories have their backs to the wall. And the government’s plans to shut down all the coal power plants in Hong Kong could also exacerbate the problem even further. For a factory it’s simple - no power means no production and no production means no products to sell.
Hong Kong is not alone in the generation gap; The International Energy Agency (IEA) most recent figures report that there were over 10,309 Terawatts of electric power produced in 2010. That is a lot of power, but according to the UN it still leaves over a billion people without electricity and another billion plus whose power is unreliable.
Hong Kong’s two suppliers, CLP Power Hong Kong Limited and The Hong Kong Electric Company Limited can produce 10,664 MW and have rights to 70% of the power generated at the two 984 MW pressurized water reactors at the Guangdong Daya Bay Nuclear Power Station according to the Hong Kong Information Services Department, but is it enough?
Meanwhile the IEA predicts China will add generating capacity equal to the current total of the US over the next 15 years, adding six power plants for every one the US builds.
In India thermal power plant projects with a total of 45,000 MW are waiting to break ground because they don’t have secure fuel sources and Indonesia predicts it will need an additional 55,000 MW over the next decade.
Thermal power plants generate 60% of current capacity and are clearly the major source of power today and that is fueling an ever intensifying environmental debate; is nuclear right, are renewables the answer, will fusion ever be commercially viable and how much can the oceans provide?
The pros and cons are endless and with last year’s events in Japan, nuclear power is being approached cautiously. Hydro electric power has always had tremendous appeal because it’s clean and cheap, but the downside is there are only so many rivers to dam.
Today, wind, solar, ocean power and others are coming, but the output is still low, so thermal produced power represents the most economically tried, true and source for adding capacity because coal and oil are abundant and comparatively easy to source.
The truth is that this is not a “one size fits all” situation for Hong Kong or the world and a global diversified approach that uses a combination of all of the above and more is what is truly needed.
In February the United States licensed its first new Nuclear Power plants in more than thirty years; whether this is the beginning of a trend or merely a blip on the production graphs no one knows. Solar and wind farms are sprouting like mushrooms all over the planet and ocean produced power is showing great promise.
Global MNC’s in the power industry like Doosan, Siemens, GE Energy and Alstom are all working hard to come up with innovative solutions to the problems; investing heavily in R&D to find greener thermal solutions and safer nuclear technology; pushing the technology of ocean, wind and solar generated power, while advancing new technology like turbines that will increase generating efficiency and building commercially scalable integrated gasification power plants.
Is the glass half full or half empty? A pessimist will believe there will be no breakthroughs causing more factories to close and leaving billions in the dark.
If on the other hand you are an optimist and believe that visionaries will roll up their sleeves and find innovative safe, economical, environmentally sound and scalable solutions then the “generation gap” may finally be bridged and Hong Kong and the billions of people around the world without electricity have reason to celebrate.
Dale Gerstenslager, General Manager, Public Relations & Communications Department, Doosan Heavy Industries Vietnam Ltd, (Doosan Vina)
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Asian Power. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Dale Gerstenslager is the General Manager, Public Relations & Communications Department, Managerial Division at Doosan Heavy Industries Vietnam Ltd, (Doosan Vina)