Red faces at our 'green' showpiece

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 February, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong may not be at the forefront when it comes to energy saving but, thankfully, a growing environmental awareness is gradually changing consumption habits in the city. The government, too, appears to be committed to promoting the concept of green living. The multibillion-dollar government headquarters and Legco complex in Admiralty is supposed to be a green showpiece.

Officials promised that the development would be a 'paragon of green buildings' when back in 2009 they sought the approval of lawmakers for the HK$5.5 billion project. With a number of state-of-the-art green features like a solar hot water system, photovoltaic panels and daylight sensors, it was reasonable to expect the new buildings would use less energy and save taxpayers money.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. The energy bill for the new Legco building in the first two months jumped almost ninefold to HK$1.46 million when compared with the same period last year at the old quarters. Carbon emissions during the period are estimated to be 1,527 tonnes. The surge may be attributed to fitting-out work as well as more office space and facilities. Nonetheless a carbon audit is under way to help reduce energy use.

It remains unclear if the government headquarters have performed better. If the Legco building is not as green as was promised, the government building is perhaps equally a cause for concern. Officials should give an account of the situation as early as possible. Taxpayers and green groups will be eager to know if officials are using less energy at a time when they are encouraging others to do the same.

A power-saving contest between the government and Legco five years ago saw energy consumption fall by 14 to 20 per cent. It shows that when there is a will, there is a way. There is no reason why the new centre of political power cannot set a good example on energy conservation.