Wasteful subsidies are not the answer to air pollution or energy price rises

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 December, 2011, 12:00am


The debate over the proposed increases in electricity prices brings about an interesting dilemma for a crowded city like Hong Kong, and a situation whose time has come.

In fact, if we care about the quality of our air in this city we should applaud the price increase, which can be fairly easy to offset for those who decide to stop being so inefficient in their power consumption.

The government should have seen this day coming, unless it always planned to appease the population with electricity subsidies which are counterproductive to any pollution or climate control measures that it claims it is trying to address. Sorry, but you cannot have it both ways, and those who care about this city's environment should welcome the free-market forces that Hong Kong always claims to rest its success on.

Hong Kong has one of the worst records of any city in the world for the energy efficiency of buildings. Many property owners aggregate energy consumption into one monthly bill for the entire building, giving no incentive for tenants to save electricity within their own operations.

This needs to change. If and when it does, consumption can be better monitored and managed so those who care to make energy-saving changes can benefit from doing so.

It is estimated that for each one degree Celsius that air conditioning temperatures are decreased, three per cent in electricity costs can be saved. Some quick and easy modifications away from chilled buildings and open storefronts would essentially nullify the price increases proposed.

If users are not willing to make these simple changes, then they should pay for their excesses.

Hopefully this can be the start of better pricing models which fairly charge those who use the most power so that residents can be less impacted on a per capita basis and the efficiencies in consumption we all deserve can be achieved. In a wealthy 'world city' like ours, we should not be afraid to make the change in supply for the long-term benefit of our health.

The last two years of ill-thought-out government subsidies simply delayed this day of increased prices, and we should realise that the silver lining on these increases is that they will allow for cleaner fuels to be used while helping to reduce the blatant amount of waste that our city is sadly known for.

Douglas Woodring, Mid-Levels