Posted on 09 August 2012.
One of the biggest drawbacks of adopting a green lifestyle are the costs associated. For example, buying fuel-efficient cars, light bulbs or rechargable batteries costs higher than conventional ones.
And another reality for people in Hong Kong — at least those living in Kowloon and the New Territories — is that clean energy also means higher electricity bills for domestic users. We are going to pay, get this, up to 40 percent higher in a few years than what we pay now. This is a rather shocking revelation coming from Michael Kadoorie, chairman of CLP Power, a major electricity provider in Hong Kong with overseas operations as well. His assessment comes after a presumption that clean energy initiatives by the government will force his company to double the use of natural gas in generating power.
Such a threatening statement is the last thing we’d like to hear. While it is true that the price of gas has soared during recent years, the delivery of the message sends a wrong message to other industries aiming to comply with the government’s drive to reduce emissions.
It is easy to make such bold message because CLP Power, along with Hongkong Electric, are the only operators in the sector; the public and the government have fewer options other than accepting what is on the table.
In a similar scenario, Hong Kong’s public bus operators, also seen as a duopoly of New World First Bus and KMB didn’t have to make such outrageous statements like raising fares if it were to modernize its fleet and do its part as environmentally-responsible company. Instead, KMB introduced its first electric buses. That’s a noble move for a company in the red amidst rise in fuel costs. And quite contrast to the seemingly stable income of CLP Power. For what it’s worth, CLP Power was named the third largest polluter in Asia but rebounded from the dubious rank and came up with its own success story.
CLP Power reduced its planned power rate increase from 7.4 per cent to 4.9 per cent earlier this year, amid criticism from the government. But this time, Mr Kadoorie’s statement could put Chief Executive-elect Leung Chun-ying and his energy policy in the spotlight.
But amid the bashing and blunt remarks against the CEO’s statements, there could be some solid facts to consider. Larry Chow of Hong Kong Energy Studies Centre at Baptist University said the natural gas source used in its plants was considerably cheaper because its deal was signed about 20 years ago. With the Yacheng fields off Hainan Island drying up, new sources are expected to be more expensive, and this will eventually be passed on to consumers.
Any new increase in utility rates brings a new burden to consumers already bothered by inflation. Greeting them with fresh round of hikes will only make things worse. But let’s accept the fact that political tensions, depleting sources and soarig demand for power drive costs higher than ever. The only way for ordinary consumers to do is conserve this finite resource.