In Asia, electricity has helped lift millions of people out of poverty. But there are still about 620 million people in developing Asia who don’t yet have access to power—and millions more who aspire to a better life. Meeting their needs will keep driving up demand for electricity.
So setting emissions targets now, to set energy provision off on a low carbon path, is vital. The bulk of all this new electricity needs to come from renewable sources rather than fossil fuels: the International Energy Agency suggests that to keep climate change to within two degrees, 42% of electricity globally must come from renewables by 2030, and 57% by 2050.
Hong Kong utilities company CLP has been stepping up to the challenge. Its Climate Vision 2050, published in 2007, sets out CLP’s voluntary commitment to cut the carbon intensity of its generation portfolio to 0.2 tCO2/MWh by 2050. That means cutting its emissions by 75% compared to 2007.
CLP set itself intensity reduction targets of 5%, 30% and 45% in 2010, 2020, and 2035 respectively. These are ambitious targets, closely aligned with the science. According to the CDP, the amount of ghg per kWh of electricity needs to be reduced by more than 95% by 2050 compared to 2010 levels.  CLP reviews its targets regularly to make sure it remains abreast of the science and advances in technology.
CLP based its approach on the concept of “carbon stabilization wedges” introduced by Professors Stephen W. Pacala and Robert Socolow of Princeton University. In 2004, Pacala and Socolow identified 15 separate strategies for wedges based on the technology we have now. They include using vehicles less and improving the way we manage forests and soils. And a number of wedges relate to the electricity sector, including clean coal (with carbon capture and storage), renewables, nuclear power, natural gas (as a substitute for coal) and far greater efficiency and conservation in the production and use of electricity. So these are the areas CLP is focusing on.
CLP intends to achieve its goals by investing in renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear power and clean coal. It is also promoting energy-saving measures at its own and customers’ facilities. In terms of renewable energy, it has been focusing on wind power and more recently on solar energy. CLP is an owner of one of the world’s first and largest thin film solar farms constructed in Thailand and is currently one of the largest wind farm investors in Asia. In Southern China, it has invested in the Daya Bay nuclear power station and is looking to continue to pursue more low-carbon energy projects in China.
How they’re doing
CLP’s targets are ambitious. In 2010, it met its 2010 goals in terms of both its carbon intensity reduction target of 0.8tCO2/MWH and renewable energy target of 5%. However, hitting its 2020 targets of 0.6tCO2/MWh and 20% renewable energy will be a significant challenge, given the urgent developing context in the Asia Pacific region and coal power currently being the economic fuel of choice for many governments. But CLP knows that cutting emissions by such a huge amount is going to be a long process, needing intensive investment. It is not giving up. CLP plans to keep investing significantly in low-carbon energy, committing 50% of its investments outside of Hong Kong to renewable energy over the next few years. It hopes that governments around the world will provide both the international and national policy support necessary for companies like CLP to meet their ambitious targets.