Energy-saving scheme sees traders forced into green labelling

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 November, 2009, 12:00am

A new energy-saving scheme begins in Hong Kong appliance stores on Monday, when traders will have to have energy-efficiency labels displayed on three types of products: refrigerators, air conditioners and compact fluorescent lamps.

The mandatory labelling ordinance is being launched 13 years after the start of a voluntary scheme covering washing machines, television sets and other appliances. The three product types in the latest initiative account for almost two-thirds of total power use in the city's homes.

Green campaigners were delighted with the law, which puts pressure on manufacturers to make more efficient models. But they urged the government to speed up inclusion of other appliances into the voluntary scheme.

In preparation for Monday's launch, 498 models of air conditioners, 261 refrigerators and 965 compact fluorescent lamps had been registered with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department by this week, the department said. Once the models and their energy-efficiency grades are registered, the department issues the labels.

The mandatory scheme was proposed in 2005 in a bid to save up to 105 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year - or 105,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions - if consumers use products of average efficiency. 'Average' means grade-three efficiency on the government's scale from one to five, where one is the top. Traders who fail to comply with the law can face fines of up to HK$100,000.

The South China Morning Post visited 15 stores this week run by three major home electrical appliance chains, and found almost all their air conditioners, refrigerators and compact fluorescent lamps already had energy-efficiency labels.

But the Post found labels on only a few washing machines and television sets - covered under the voluntary scheme. Due to the low rate of compliance, green campaigners have urged the government to include other appliances in the mandatory scheme as soon as possible.

A grade-one air conditioner uses 15 per cent less electricity than a grade-three model - for an annual saving of HK$220 in power costs, according to government data - and 29 per cent less than a grade-five model, saving HK$430. A grade-one refrigerator uses almost 50 per cent less energy than a grade-five machine. The figure is 18 per cent for compact fluorescent lamps.

William Yu Yuen-ping, head of WWF Hong Kong's climate programme, said: 'The effect of legislation is quite encouraging: as you can see, most of the air conditioners and refrigerators on the market are of grade one or two.

'It took four years for the ordinance to take effect after it was proposed. The government should speed up the inclusion of other electrical appliances into the scheme to spur competition among manufacturers to make more efficient machines - for the benefit of consumers and the environment,' he said.

The Environment Bureau will ask for dehumidifiers and washing machines to be included under the labelling law. Officials say this expansion of the law will save a further 25 GWh, reduce energy bills by HK$25 million and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 17,500 tonnes a year.