Opportunities to develop solar energy wilfully ignored

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2000, 12:00am

I read with interest the article by Albert Lai Kwong-tak on the Government allowing the expansion of the Lamma power station ('Consumers lose out in Lamma power plant decision', South China Morning Post, August 24). Given the Government's campaign to reduce air pollution and the large number of sunny days in Hong Kong, has anyone in officialdom ever considered expanding the use of solar energy?

Admittedly, the lack of solar energy usage within the region is not confined to Hong Kong. Even Singapore, which is situated on the equator, does not use much solar energy. Big construction projects such as power stations factored greatly in the early economic growth of Hong Kong and most of Asia, and helped Asia's conglomerates to grow. But given modern environmental concerns, and a future energy crisis, the Government should really examine what is good for the people of Hong Kong and think less about their cosy relationships with corporations.

We have all heard about global warming. This will translate into increasing the number of fine sunny days. Hong Kong has countless high-rise buildings which are ideal platforms for the placement of solar panels on roof tops, or on the sides of buildings. Solar farms could be built on hills, disused land or isolated islands.

Even if solar energy contributes five per cent of the total energy requirements of Hong Kong, this translates into five per cent less air pollution compared with conventional coal or oil-fired power stations. I suspect there would be additional cost savings due to fewer health ailments. Solar panels are easy to maintain, pollution free, aesthetically pleasing, and a proven technology.

The Government could argue that typhoons could wreck solar panels or that solar energy is more expensive when compared with energy produced by coal or oil. But solar panels like any construction item can be designed to withstand the forces of nature. The problem with oil and coal-produced energy are that they both contribute to the effects of global warming, and they both emit pollutants into the air. I will not even debate the dubious merits of nuclear power.

So given this, solar energy is actually cheaper if all the environmental and social costs are added together.

I do not expect the Government to ever consider solar energy as a viable alternative as no corporation will actually benefit from this free energy source, and it will please nobody but environmentalists and ordinary people.


Sha Tin