Power firms defiant on bills
The two electricity companies stood firm yesterday on their proposed price increases despite a public outcry and government calls to consider smaller increases.
Hongkong Electric said it had already reduced its rise from an average 8 per cent to 6.3 per cent in response to government calls before making its announcement earlier this week and pointed to tariff concessions it said would result in lower increases for small users.
CLP Power reiterated that it had already done all it could to minimise its 9.2 per cent increase - dubbed 'unacceptable' by officials - and could do no more.
'We have made the best efforts to defer and minimise the tariff increase,' managing director Richard Lancaster said at a press conference called to address what CLP said were misconceptions about its proposals.
The companies have blamed soaring operating and fuel costs for the increases.
But government energy adviser Professor Raymond So Wai-man expressed disappointment yesterday at CLP's stance.
So, a member of the Energy Advisory Committee, said CLP Power's principle of maximising its profit went against public expectations and its social responsibility.
The government had earlier called on CLP to follow Hongkong Electric's lead in deferring passing on some of its fuel costs to consumers.
Political parties also criticised the power companies, and Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, a spokesman for the Coalition to Monitor Public Transport and Utilities, blamed the government for its lax monitoring.
'It is not enough for the officials just to say the increase is unacceptable,' Tsoi said.
Detailing its concession for low users, HKE, the supplier to Hong Kong and Lamma islands, said it would reduce the basic tariff for the first 500 units of electricity consumed, including a 4.4 cent reduction per unit for the first 150 units.
Including its fuel cost surcharge, which is a constant 37 cents per unit, the adjustment would mean that 70 per cent of the firm's users would face increases of up to HK$19.20 a month, against HK$25 in its earlier proposal.
It said the bills of more than 90 per cent of households would rise by no more than 5 per cent, less than the expected inflation rate. But it admitted that some heavy power users would pay up to 8 per cent more and that the average increase would still be about 6.3 per cent.
The company said it cut the proposed average rise from 8 per cent to 6.3 per cent on Tuesday, before making its announcement, in response to calls from the Executive Council.
The Environment Bureau welcomed Hongkong Electric's adjustments, saying they would benefit a majority of users. But at the same time it regretted that CLP Power had not responded to calls for a reduction.
At CLP, the city's largest power producer, and the supplier to the New Territories, Kowloon and Lantau, Lancaster would not comment on Hongkong Electric's proposal but said that even after the 9.2 per cent rise, CLP's tariff was still 28 per cent lower than that of its counterpart.