On June 6, the Legislative Council held a public hearing on the future development of the electricity market. The main reports supported the proposal that the permitted rate of return, between the power companies and the government, should be lowered and demanded more energy saving.
On energy saving, as I stated in my OpEd column on May 29, this is only effective in terms of managing demand. Power companies react to our needs. The amount of electricity they generate is to suit our lifestyle and avoid black outs. Hong Kong consumes a lot of power, especially when it comes to air conditioning. Air conditioning is turned on at full power to keep Hongkongers cool. To use less electricity, without any change in infrastructure, one solution would be to bear the boiling heat indoors with the air conditioning off. Some people might agree to this, but others may think it out of question. But if we don’t get ready to consume less electricity, by means of either drastic or moderate change, the power companies are under pressure to respect our choice and produce the amount of electricity that we want.
It does not mean that the power companies are taking no action in managing demand. They have established grants for the public to retrofit existing building facilities to the more energy efficient ones. They also render energy audits to the public to advise means of improving energy efficiency. Resources are in place for the public to save money on electricity bills long term, and the public has their part to play. So before blaming the power companies for their excessive investment think about whether we have really tried to be as energy efficient as we can be at home and in the office.
I agree with the government position that we are not using the cheapest electricity in the world. But do not forget that an electricity bill is currently less than 2 per cent of the average domestic expenditure for Hongkongers, so the current tariff should be well within people’s affordability. Infinitely cheap and green, highly reliable electricity that is generated and supplied safely does not exist, so when it comes to shaping the future of Hong Kong’s electricity market, we need to be realistic.