Lamps and Mercury Pollution

This morning I walked passed by another dead fluorescent lamp heading to Hong Kong’s scarce landfill (refer photograph). Sadly it is a common sight in this district.

What I find annoying is that the current state of affairs makes no sense. No sense economically because it costs many times more to carry out remedial work to fix the problem than the cost to prevent pollution the occurrence.

Hong Kong’s environmental regulations should be designed to prevent toxic mercury contamination. The government estimates that 98% of businesses in Hong Kong are classified as SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises),  yet only the 2% (the large organisations) qualify for safe disposal of lamps.

Currently choosing replacement lamps with the lowest possible mercury content is our best option, whilst we wait for lighting manufacturers to deliver on the promised zero mercury lamp.

Green Building – new insurance revenue

For the insurance business most of the media reports and predictions are dire, focused on the increasing losses, particularly the financial crisis and increasing claims many resulting from increasing number of natural disasters it said.

Finally big business has seen the light, and the new opportunities from the green, low carbon economy. The Lawyers Weekly (Canada) newsletter reports that insurers will introduce new Green insurance products, designed to help building owners manage risk.

Particularly interesting, some insurers will offer 10% saving on the cost of pollution legal liability insurance for LEED certified buildings.

Energy Performance Contracts
Also a long awaited insurance product suitable for EPC (Energy Performance Contract). The insurance is specifically designed to help building owners mitigate the risk in the event that a capital improvement project does not produce the anticipated energy savings. Here in Asia EPC’s are still in their infancy, and a product designed to help encourage building owners feel secure by lowering their downside exposure is welcomed.


Energy Audit – more wasted light energy

1.00 pm, Sunday, 18 January 2008, Kowloon Bay, Hong Kong

It is a beautiful bright sunny Sunday afternoon, the store is obviously closed, and the shutters are down. Yet all seven (7) exterior lamps are burning brightly, here is a photograph captured with my camera phone.

Did the owner forget? or believe it would not make a big difference? Did someone consider the extra coal that would be burnt at the power station and its resultant pollution to keep those lights on?

This raises the thorny issue, the true cost of power, can we continue to overlook the generation externalities? The social cost of pollution created by power generation in Hong Kong is presently estimated to be in the order of HK$ 6 billon (US$ 740 million) per year, but that cost is not priced into the consumers energy charge, its paid by the tax payers. The Hong Kong Government verbally advocates a polluters pay policy, however the reality is very different, often relying on the tax payer to foot the bill.

Energy Audit – more about lighting

Continuing the lighting audit theme for another post – A simple but often overlooked option for controlling energy costs is thoughtful design of the lighting circuitry and control system for lighting, particularly exterior lighting.

Exterior lighting control is hardly rocket science, low cost circuitry with a contactor and photocell is a preventative measure,  keeping the the external lighting from operating during bright day time hours saving countless kilowatts, and the maintenance cost for re-lamping.

Unfortunately, as the exterior area of the car park as the photograph indicates, poor design coupled with lowest first cost mentality means building owners often end up with only one control circuit operating both indoor and outdoor fittings simultaneously. Of course, this causes waste due to the unnecessary operation of lights during the day light hours.

It is easy to zone other areas too, in the car park example, covered parking having a perimeter with abundant natural light don’t need electric lamps burning during daytime hours.

If you opt for photocell control,  do ensure the photocell location is accessible for easy cleaning.

Energy Audit – its not just about the lux

It is not just about the recording lighting level (known as LUX)

lighting energy audit

Lighting efficacy – Energy audits for buildings, typically include a lighting audit. But just recording the lighting level (known as the lux level) in the various rooms is not enough. We need to assess the effectiveness of the installation.

During a recent energy audit several lighting fittings (as shown in the photograph) were discovered. Perhaps discovered is the wrong word, the high intensity fittings were plainly obvious.

Pairs of uplighting fittings were installed close to each other, and very close to the ceiling.

These fittings didn’t add any value to the illumination of the space, as you can clearly see these intended uplighters only created an intense, localised pool of light (and heat).

Based on operating 3,600 hours per year, each fitting wastes HK$ 660 per year in electricity. Just measuring the lighting level is not sufficient for an energy audit, in this case immediate removal was recommended saving electricity.

Also remember that in air conditioned rooms removing lighting fittings not only lowers the electricity consumption for lighting, it also lowers the heat gain which in turn reduces the load on the air conditioning system. As a rule of thumb, eliminting 1 Kw of lighting lowers the total electricity consumption by 1.3 kw.

Green Bank – implementing energy audit findings

New Resource bank (in USA) is the country’s first “green” bank and they love helping in green people in green ways……. read the full article here

It is a positive step that at least one bank in the US is finally being to understand. However if you don’t have access to a green bank where do you turn? First ask your local energy consultant, they have the knowledge and contacts to point you in the right direction.

For economically viable large projects, let’s say US$ 10 million and up sourcing finance is not the major challenge, there are several options in the market. However, the important smaller schemes often struggle, and find difficulty to securing funding, in reality nobody is really interested due the transaction cost.

I have spent time explaining the an energy efficiency finance model to banks who seem to uninterested, prefering to opt or lets say demand upfront collateral, ignoring the efficicency savings as a future income stream. Luckily, we have an Mr Xu, an energy specialist at ADB Hong Kong, who we hope will help the re-education process.