Greenpeace issues energy challenge

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 April, 2003, 12:00am

Contract negotiations give the government a chance to make renewable sources of power a reality, say environmentalists

A green group is challenging the government to take the initiative and promote renewable sources of energy when it begins contract negotiations with Hong Kong's two power companies.

The challenge is issued in a formal submission by Greenpeace in response to a consultation paper on potential applications of renewable energy, which was released for public comment on February 6.

The report, which was commissioned by the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) and took two years to complete, will form the basis for Hong Kong's renewable energy development. It recommends that the contribution from renewable energy to annual power demand should rise from 1 per cent in 2012, to 2 per cent by 2017 and 3 per cent by 2022.

Greenpeace argues that the 'pitifully low' targets are due to Hong Kong's 'restrictive, monopolistic energy market' and has called on the government to lead Hong Kong's energy policy.

'Rather than placing further obstacles in the way of renewable energy becoming part of Hong Kong's energy mix ... the government has the chance to create the enabling framework for renewable energy to become a reality,' the environmental group says in its proposal.

'The government will imminently meet with Hong Kong Electric and China Light and Power for the mid-contract term negotiations or scheme of control agreements - this is their chance to take real action.'

The agreement controls the profits the companies are allowed to make.

The EMSD report said the targets may seem modest but were regarded as prudent given the many identified 'constraints and barriers' under which the power companies operate.

According to Greenpeace, one of the most significant hurdles is that the power companies enjoy a virtual monopoly.

'Their main responsibility is to provide good returns for shareholders - in other words, to preserve the status quo and not to allow the level of investment in renewable energy that is required.'

Hong Kong Electric said it supported the development and research of renewable energy in Hong Kong, as evidenced by the fact that it had commissioned the environmental group Friends of the Earth to conduct a feasibility study and field survey in April 1999 to explore the application of wind power for electricity generation.

Two wind power monitoring stations were set up on Po Toi and Lamma islands in 2001.

'The collected data, including wind speed and wind directions, will be used to build up a wind atlas for assessment of the wind energy potential in the southern part of Hong Kong,' a spokesman for the power company said. 'Our next course of action will be to conduct a detailed technical and economic feasibility study based on the data collected.'

China Light and Power has yet to respond to an inquiry on its renewable energy strategy.