Energy consumption in Hong Kong rose by more than 26 per cent over two decades, an environmental group says - and much of the power switched on left shoppers shivering in city malls or lit up the night sky.
WWF's Hong Kong Energy Index recorded the change in energy use, including consumption of electricity, petrol and town gas, between 1990 and 2008. The conservation group found that an average household used 7 per cent more energy than it did in 1990. Over the 18 years covered by the survey, that cost households HK$400 million.
But it was the commercial sector that was the biggest culprit, with excessive use of air conditioning and the glow of extra lighting at shops and malls contributing to a 40 per cent increase in the sector's energy use.
'It is very cold inside malls [with air conditioning] ... vendors also start switching on spotlights early in the morning,' said Dr William Yu Yuen-ping, head of the climate programme at WWF Hong Kong.
Companies should turn down the air conditioning when only a few people are around, he said, while office workers should switch off their computers after work.
Families could save up to 3 per cent of their energy consumption by doing any two of the following: cleaning air conditioner filters regularly, turning off the home's internet network router when it is not in use, increase the air conditioner temperature by 1 degree Celsius during summer, or take showers instead of baths.
Hongkongers will be able to put the ideas into practice when WWF organises its annual lights out event, Earth Hour, at 8.30pm on March 31. Last year 3,200 buildings and organisations turned their non-essential lights off for an hour, affecting the homes and offices of 2.7 million people.
'All the glowing advertisements along Victoria Harbour waterfront switched off one by one last year ... even companies based outside Hong Kong joined the campaign,' he said.
The group expects even stronger support this year. Harbour City, Olympian City, Times Square, Langham Place, H&M and the Kowloon Shangri-La are among business groups that have signed up. The Symphony of Lights show in Victoria Harbour will be called off for the night.