Special Report – GHG: The case for adopting a priority regulatory policy

That’s not all. Authorities must strengthen the current energy conservation policy, according to one of Macau’s most authoritative voices on greenhouse gas emissions

Macau Business | March 2023 | Special Report | Decarbonisation. When? How?

The potential challenge for the effective GHG emissions mitigation of urban energy consumption: A case study of Macau (2021) was the title of one of the first attempts to pinpoint a date for the peak of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Macau: under an ideal scenario, GHG emissions can be slowed and will peak in 2033.

However, for this ideal scenario to be realized, several factors need to come together, as explained to Macau Business by one of the study’s authors, Qingbin Song, from the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering of the Faculty of Innovative Engineering under the Macau University of Science and Technology (MUST).

The study notes that since 2009, the gambling industry has become the largest GHG emissions contributor in Macau, followed by transportation, commerce/restaurants/hotels, and households.

“In order to prevent a continuous increase in urban energy consumption in the short term, energy conservation in the gambling industry and transportation should be the focus for achieving sustainable energy in Macau,” explained Professor Song.

In addition, “because of its scarcity of resources, Macau has been relying heavily on energy import and export trade. Except for common kerosene and diesel oil, other energy sources (gasoline, aviation kerosene, fuel oil, LPG, natural gas, and electricity) are still either fluctuating or increasing.” So, explained the Macau-based scholar, “the continuous increase in urban energy consumption and consequent GHG emissions threatens long-term sustainable development in Macau.”

How to optimise the urban energy structure and reduce GHG emissions has become the core challenge for Macau, notes Qingbin Song. To avoid a continuous increase in urban energy consumption in the short term, “the key lies in optimising the energy structure, particularly the power structure of the local and China Southern Power Grid.” Of course, energy-saving efforts from residents, governments, and enterprises are also very important for the GHG emission reduction.” 

The Government, in particular, has a very important role to play, taking into account, for example, the small land area and a single energy structure.

“If Macau government does not adopt a priority regulatory policy or strengthen the existing energy conservation policy, the GHG emissions from energy consumption will still show a strong and persistent growth trend in the future,” Professor Song told Macau Business.

The Professor from MUST’s Department of Environmental Science and Engineering underlines that the “Macau government should and can play an important leadership role in energy transformation and GHG emission reduction,” once “governmental policies are the basis for realising the goal of a sustainable, energy-efficient city.”

The government sectors themselves are considered by this expert “the top priority in improving energy utilisation efficiency and reducing GHG emissions.”

Professor Song explained that “compared with most cities in Mainland China, Macau has a relatively reasonable energy structure with a high proportion of clean energy.”

He also highlighted some of the management policies and technical guidance for optimising Macau’s energy structure, formulated by the Office for Development of the Energy Sector, Environmental Protection Bureau of Macau (DSPA) and Macau Electricity Company (CEM). These include building new natural gas pipelines and natural gas power plants; increasing the number of electric vehicles charging stations; promoting the use of energy-saving products; and converting to natural gas-powered buses.

“If Macau government does not adopt a priority regulatory policy or strengthen the existing energy conservation policy, the GHG emissions from energy consumption will still show a strong and persistent growth trend in the future” – Qingbin Song

“In order to achieve the long-term goal of carbon emission reduction, the Macau government still has more work to do, such as improving the energy-saving behaviour and awareness of the residents and enterprises, accelerating the adjustment of the energy structure, and vigorously developing the use of low-carbon and clean energy,” Professor Song detailed. Regarding the imported electricity from China Southern Power Grid, the clean electricity ratio should be at least 40 per cent, according to the cooperation agreements.

If, on the supply side, the Macau government “can actively moderate the energy structure, reducing the fossil energy use,” on the consumption side, “the final energy-saving from the residents, governments, and enterprises will be the important strategy.”

Precisely on the consumption side, there is a part that stands out: the booming tertiary industries (such as gambling, transportation, commerce, restaurants, and hotels) have greatly promoted energy consumption and GHG emissions in Macau.

Taking 2018 as an example, the energy consumption of the tertiary industries accounted for 94.6 per cent of the total energy consumption, as Professor Song pointed out. “It is worth noting that the proportion of energy consumption in the gaming industry increased continuously from 2000 to 2018 (13.2 per cent–27.7 per cent); this is the fastest increase among all industries.”

And, as noted by our interviewee, previous studies have proven that improving the energy efficiency of the gambling industry is the key to achieving Macau’s energy conservation and emission reduction strategy.

At present, Macau’s gambling industry has also introduced some measures to reduce GHG emissions from energy consumption, but “in the future, this industry still needs to concern itself with their large energy consumption and GHG emissions, and it is expected that more effective measures should be further carried out.”[The Government, through DSPA, revealed to Macau Business that, in result of the measures regarding the reduction of emissions, the rate of carbon dioxide emissions (volume of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP) of Macau has already reached the target national level in 2020, namely 40 to 45 per cent less than in 2005.]

The four scenarios

The team led by Qingbin Song worked with four scenarios, which “may reflect consequences of the implementation of different economic and technological policies.” According to this Professor and researcher, scenario analysis is one effective measure for reasonably estimating the potential energy consumption and CO2 emissions reductions from Macau.

In the 2021 study, the ideal scenario is set based on the environmental protection plan of Macau (2010−2020) and the future plan of Companhia de Electricidade de Macau (CEM).

“Due to data availability, 2018 was chosen as the baseline year, while 2035 was chosen as the end year for scenario analysis.”

As shown in Fig. 1, Macau’s GHG emissions from energy consumption will continue to increase in the ideal scenario, but the growth rate will be small as GHG emissions have reached a rather stable plateau.

Therefore, under the ideal scenario, Macau’s GHG emissions will show a slow decline after reaching their peak in 2033.

It is worth noting that, due to the lack of actual data, the influence of COVID-19 is not considered in the scenario analysis, as explained by Professor Song to Macau Business. “In addition, the scenario analysis setting primarily focuses on the transition of energy structure and does not consider potential future energy savings.” GHG emissions in this study refer to both direct and indirect (embodied) emissions. 

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