Higher target set as Hong Kong aims to reduce energy consumption

HONG KONGA new blueprint will be written as Hong Kong attempts to reduce its energy consumption.

Hong Kong is to be set an even tougher target to cut energy use over the next decade – beyond the existing plan for a 25 % reduction.

The Environment Bureau intends to reveal the new target in an energy blueprint to be unveiled within the next few months, along with a basket of measures to help cut energy consumption across sectors and reduce carbon emissions.

Secretary for Environment Wong Kam-sing told the Post: “The new target will be an achievable one. It will be reviewed and updated from time to time. We need to be pragmatic.”

The existing target was set at a 2007 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting to try to reduce global warming. It calls for a 25 % drop in energy use by 2030 from the 2005 level, using the quantity of energy needed to produce one unit of gross domestic product as the gauge.

However, critics have called it a “pseudo” target after it was estimated that actual carbon emissions could grow by 140 % above the 2005 level by 2030, as long as the economy grew at an annual rate of 4 %. Last year, it grew by 2.4 %.

Buildings in Hong Kong account for 90 % of electricity consumption. And Wong said that the 2009 decree that government development projects larger than 10,000 square metres must be awarded one of the top two green-building ratings would be updated to cover nearly all new government buildings.

“We hope the government will take the lead … so that the private sector will follow suit,” he said, adding he saw a similar opportunity to lead the way when it came to building public housing. More than 280,000 public units will be built in the next decade.

Energy use in existing government buildings would also be tightened, Wong added.

He also hoped more businesses would sign up to the Energy Saving Charter, which has so far seen more than 120 shopping malls and 190 office buildings pledge to maintain an average indoor temperature of between 24 and 26 degrees Celsius.

Wong said the basket of measures would also include subsidies and there would be a campaign urging Hongkongers to switch off lights and appliances when not in use to save money and energy. “We hope the campaign can be as successful as the food-wise programme, with its popular Big Waster [cartoon character],” he said.

His remarks followed a target announced in last month’s policy address to cut electricity use in government buildings by 5 % in the next five years.

The bureau, which has released similar blueprints to tackle pollution and waste, is also due to be laying down its strategy determining how the city’s energy is produced. The issue was the subject of a recent public consultation but Wong declined to reveal its conclusions – whether Hong Kong should hand over some of its energy “autonomy” and see more nuclear power imported from the mainland or build more gas-fired generators locally.

Wong said early disclosure could affect its negotiations with the city’s two power companies, CLP Power and HK Electric. Their future will also be under discussion in an upcoming public consultation on whether the electricity market should be opened up.

Hong Kong produces three-quarters of its energy, and the government has to inform CLP and HK Electric by next year if it intends to alter the regulatory regime when it expires in 2018.

Wong said the bureau would be producing a document for November’s United Nations’ COP21 conference on climate change, spelling out the city’s efforts to curb the greenhouse-gas emissions behind global warming.

World Green Organisation chief executive Dr William Yu said: “It’s good that the government is holding itself up as an example but the key to cutting energy lies in the private sector.”

He urged the government to promote “energy-savings performance contracts”, where energy conservation consultants involved in the design of a new building share electricity bill savings with tenants.

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