CLP Group

Angered by power plant policy secrecy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 11 January, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 11 January, 1997, 12:00am


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On January 7, the South China Morning Post reported that legislators had criticised China Light and Power's (CLP) performance. Since the power utility renegotiated its Scheme of Control with the Government in 1992, consumers have been, and will be, charged billions of dollars to pay for power stations they do not need.

Even more absurd, the Government seems to be willing to still consider allowing Hong Kong Electric to build another power plant no one needs. Why do Hong Kong Island-based businesses and residents have to pay 15 per cent more in electricity charges than those in Kowloon and the New Territories? At a meeting in the Legislative Council, legislators were told that CLP was under contract to buy a huge supply of natural gas from Hainan Island even if not required for energy production. By all available forecasts, Hong Kong will not need it. What will be the impact on consumers? How is the Government, via the Economic Services Branch (ESB), playing its monitory role to protect consumers? The Government has other questions it needs to respond to. Why was CLP able to enter into a contract whereby Hong Kong would buy 70 per cent of the electricity generated at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant (CLP owns 25 per cent) even though there is significant spare capacity in Hong Kong? This arrangement benefits no one except CLP shareholders.

Moreover, why was CLP allowed to shut down the old Tsing Yi power plant seven years ahead of schedule? The plant was well depreciated and could have been used as a back-up plant for the very occasional times when on the hottest days in the summer, additional capacity may be needed to keep us cool. As such, arguments that the plant was old and more polluting cannot justify the building of Black Point Power Plant at HK$24 billion which customers will have to pay for. Just think how much even $0.24 billion could help to clean up air pollution.

I have been pushing for clear responses to these questions for years. Despite stonewalling by the Government, a trickle of information is now coming, thanks to greater public awareness and the new access to information code of practice.

What the information shows is maddening. It points towards electricity charges continuing to be higher than can be justified. After lodging a complaint with the Ombudsman for the denial of an independent consultancy report on CLP's performance, the Government made it available but still blacked out essential information. The only response legislators got from ESB was that it would explain why the information could not be given.

ESB must explain, if it can do so credibly, why details of the utility's past-use patterns, and future demand forecasts, cannot be released. This information is key for justifying new power plants.

Local businesses and residents deserve to know if the Government is willing and able to protect consumers from unjustified monopolistic profiteering.

CHRISTINE LOH Legislative Councillor