The Hong Kong Approach

By Cameron Steel

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In the autumn of 2017 I had a chance conversation in Savoy Place with a former Vice President of the IET who was visiting from Hong Kong. I have known Prof Dr NF Chin for many years from our volunteering days with the IET Built Environment Technologies TPN.  We had a discussion on a potential presentation to fit in with the theme of the low carbon agenda. I was able to show him copies from the library shelf of two of the titles I had recently written.

After months of planning, submitting a paper around the theme of Energy Efficiency in Electrical Installations and compiling a presentation around wider global standards and similar themes, on the evening of Tuesday 19th June 2018 I finally boarded flight BA0032 bound for Hong Kong on my first ever visit to Asia. It was a direct 12-hour flight. Although in the UK it was breakfast time when I arrived, suddenly I found myself in the middle of the afternoon and coping with 30degC heat with humidity levels approaching 80%. I live on the edge of a small market town in the south of England and I was expecting a culture shock. With the heat, humidity, smells, sounds, and general hustle and bustle of a crowded busy city, I was not disappointed.

After a fairly restful night I spent the following morning wandering around Tsim Sha Tsui where I was staying and also, via the Star Ferry, Hong Kong Island. That evening I did my final preparation for the presentation and even managed to email some specification updates back to the Tonbridge office.

On Friday morning I was greeted warmly by the conference organisers and shown straight to the VIP lounge for coffee. There other guests and senior members of IET Hong Kong started to arrive. There followed lots of handshakes, photographs and formal exchanges of business cards.

Shortly before 9:00am I went to the main conference room, at which point I gained some idea of the scale of things. There was seating and desks for almost 200 delegates. I also saw for the first time the timetable for the day – Conference chair to open proceedings, the Environment Secretary of the Hong Kong government to give the opening address and then me to give the key note presentation. All followed by a variety of senior academics and local industry leaders through the whole day.

I have presented before – tender bids at the British Library, IET membership events, industry events at ExCel London and NEC, Birmingham – but nothing quite on this scale before. I was also the only European in the room.

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With no time to be nervous, and knowing I was prepared, before long it was my turn. The presentation went well. Fortunately, I had plenty of material to draw on from my own publications and from my understanding of international standards on Energy Efficiency and Energy Management. I also discussed the relatively new field of Transition Engineering and how that can build on existing standards and provide a wider strategy for the future. I had 30 minutes at the centre of the stage and it passed so quickly. The presentation was warmly received and I had an opportunity to answer a few questions too.

The rest of the morning consisted of presentations from academics and industry leaders from Hong Kong talking about issues surrounding the implementation of Zero Carbon Buildings in Hong Kong, the benefits of recommissioning and how to manage that process, using technology and controls to reduce energy consumption, and the use and maintenance of BIM models to aid energy management processes.

For lunch, I was invited back to the VIP lounge to enjoy a formal sit-down lunch with the other presenters and principal guests.

There were more presentations in the afternoon from mainland China and an Hong Kong academic now based in Canada. Between them they explored themes around Energy Efficiency in the transportation sector, the use of the Internet of Things and wireless applications to aid energy efficiency and energy management in the built environment, the use of biogas and energy storage in China to reduce dependency on fossil fuels, and the outcomes of smart grid research activities and trials in Canada.

The standard of presentations was high and the papers with them were all very well researched and written. The conference papers, including my own, were all published in an accompanying Symposium Proceedings book.

Before the conference closed all the presenters were invited back on stage for a panel Q&A session.

I was asked specifically, having had a brief chance to walk around parts of the city and also listening to the days proceedings, what I thought about Hong Kong and its approach to the low carbon agenda. I reported that I found the Environment Secretary’s commitment and drive to be heartening, that the philosophies and case studies demonstrated Hong Kong was probably in a better place than they thought.

I also said they had a number of particular challenges and still a lot of work to do. However so do we in Europe and having channels where we can all exchange ideas on energy efficiency and energy management were very important.

HK conference pic 11.jpgWith the conference over it was chance to relax for an hour or so before the formal Conference Dinner in the evening. This was a full Chinese banquet and I sat next to Dr NF Chin who explained some of the rituals around the specific number of courses – officially 8 (very auspicious apparently, but not too extravagant) but I counted a few more. It was a very enjoyable evening and I gained a fair bit of kudos for using chopsticks throughout.

On Saturday, I managed to get some down time and explored the area a bit more. The Star Ferry to Hong Kong island is fun, especially when a thunder storm passes directly overhead and lightning strikes nearby. On Sunday I managed to visit Lamma Island, which as well as being home to a large conventional power station is also car free and is the location of Hong Kong’s solitary wind turbine.  The island is relatively undeveloped and provided some good walks and great views towards the South China Sea.

All too soon I was heading back to the airport and on a plane to the UK. It was a hectic but very enjoyable few days and I greatly appreciated the support from my family and from Banyards to allow me the time to take part. Taking part in any conference is special but flying across the globe and providing the key note presentation takes that participation to another level. What an opportunity. Thank you, IET Hong Kong.

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