At 1.35 am on 15 June 2018, engineers at CLP Power System Control Centre in Tai Po, Hong Kong, disconnected the circuit supplying electricity to Shekou. Shortly after, the Shenzhen Power Supply Bureau activated its own circuit to take over the supply to the city in Mainland China’s Guangdong province seamlessly.
The historic switchover marked the successful completion of the historical mission of CLP Power to provide reliable power supply for Shekou for more than 30 years.
In 1979, the China Merchants Group was put in charge of building China’s first industrial zone in Shekou, a small fishing village then. To attract foreign investment, a reliable supply of electricity was essential. At the time, Shekou relied on Shenzhen for electricity and the supply from that power-hungry city was unstable.
Dogged by frequent blackouts, Shekou looked for new sources of supply and neighbouring Hong Kong was a natural choice. On 24 July 1985 in the presence of its Chairman Lord Lawrence Kadoorie, CLP Power signed a contract with the China Merchants Group to send electricity from Yuen Long to Shekou. It was a major engineering undertaking at the time involving the laying of a nine-kilometer 132kV submarine cable across Deep Bay from Lau Fau Shan.
Despite the engineering challenge, the project was completed in a little over a year and went into operation on 9 November 1986. This signaled the start of three decades of cooperation between CLP Power and the China Merchants Group. As the development of Shekou accelerated, demand for electricity soared. Two more submarine cables went into operation in 1997 and 2006 to enhance supply reliability, giving it a reliability rate of 99.99%. This cooperation continued for more than 30 years. Last year, as China’s power industry developed and its supply capacity increased, China Merchants Group decided that it would make the switch over to Shenzhen for electricity supply beginning from June 2018.
Brian Tsui, CLP Power Deputy Director for Asset Development, was one of the project pioneers participated in the pre-commissioning testing of equipment. Recalling his experiences 32 years ago, Brian says engineers and technical staff from the China Merchants Group were creative in solving day-to-day problems.
For instance, the China Merchants Group engineers substituted the plastic numbered ferrules that normally used by their CLP counterparts to label control wirings with plastic straws. “Materials were in short supply in Shekou in those days but the China Merchants Group employees were very good at seeking solutions flexibly,” Brian says.
The China Merchants Group engineers were also ingenious in making sure they could communicate effectively despite their language differences. The term “Voltage Transformer” used by CLP engineers had a different name in Mainland China so the engineers adopted a code name that people from both sides could understand, Brian recalls. “We also used body language to make sure we understood each other,” he says.
Today, the partnership between CLP Power and the China Merchants Group is continuing despite the switchover of supply. The three submarine cables connecting Hong Kong to Shekou will provide back-up support in the event of an emergency in either city. Both companies are also exploring ways to forge closer and broader cooperation in future.
Shekou relied on a small power station in Shenzhen for energy supply for industrial development in the 1980s.
Brian Tsui (third from right) participated in the pre-commissioning test of the first submarine cable in Shekou in 1986.
The second Hong Kong-Shekou submarine cable was laid in 1996.
The second submarine cable was officially in operation in 1997.
CLP and China Merchants Group signed a contract to lay a third submarine cable in 2004.
Engineers from China Merchants successfully connected the power supply to the Shenzhen power grid at 1:35 am on 15 June 2018. The smooth switchover marked CLP Power's completion of the historical task of supporting the growth of the Shekou city.