• Thu
  • Aug 28, 2014
  • Updated: 5:37am
Jake's View
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:30am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:30am

HK Electric may be right about idea of importing power from mainland China

The government is currently seeking public opinion on options for the future of the city's power supply. It boils down to a choice between importing about 30 per cent of power from the mainland grid or upgrading local power generation.

South China Morning Post, June 6

 

It is not only government seeking public opinion. HK Electric has been e-mailing customers recently, asking them to speak out against mainland power, and even China Light, careful with its words, says the Hong Kong-only option "provides a more certain result".

Let me put the background into immediate perspective. The red line on the chart shows you a 10-year average of electricity consumption growth in Hong Kong, down from more than 10 per cent 30 years ago to less than 1 per cent now.

This leads to an obvious question. Why now? Decisive measures to guarantee power supply might have been understandable 30 years ago but, as the chart shows, power consumption growth has fallen far below economic growth. An outright decline in electricity usage is now distinctly possible.

We shall have to build new power plants anyway, of course. They have finite lifetimes and the technology has advanced considerably from the 1980s. The future lies in small, highly efficient, gas turbine plants, assuming that we rule out nuclear because of the Fukushima disaster.

But with no urgent, pressing need for more power right now, the question comes down to whether mainland power can be more reliable, cheaper and less polluting than domestically sourced power.

No, and decisively so, on all three counts, says HK Electric.

Well, yes and no, because in the distant future we may perhaps get a lower carbon footprint from mainland power, says China Light (and I shall never comprehend why a company with a name of such grand mystique changed it to CLP Holdings).

The China Light submission is a thorough and superbly crafted document. To me, however, it seems to say, "Let's stall 'em and maybe they'll go away."

I understand the equivocation. There is an undercurrent of thought in the government (instantly denied, of course) that China Light is perhaps not quite enough of a Chinese company for such an important position in Hong Kong. The founding Kadoorie family were Iraqi compradors, you know.

Thus when chairman Michael Kadoorie complained in public of official inattention to pressing questions of power supply there were protests in the Legislative Council of his having insulted the government.

One suspects that just perhaps, maybe, the reaction would have been more reserved if the complaint had come from a company backed by tycoon Li Ka-shing, such as HK Electric, for instance.

But what has really stood out recently is how robustly our bureaucrats speak out for the mainland option. Why should they care so much if all we have is a dispassionate consultation asking the public's opinion on which way we should go in the future?

I think the answer is that the consultation, ending on June 18, is a fraud. Someone in Beijing has sent down instructions that Hong Kong is to source 30 per cent of its power from the mainland and the bureaucracy has been told to make it appear that this has full public backing. There is really no consultation. It has all been settled.

And I think the reason Beijing wants it this way is, first of all, the old-fashioned central planning notion that government must have direct input in key industries and, secondly, that sales to Hong Kong would be paid for in hard currency rather than funny money.

I think HK Electric has the right of it this time.

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12

This article is now closed to comments

Ant Lee
this similarly applies to most other so called "consultations" by the government, where you know at the end the government will have its way - i.e. the mainland Chinese way.
sydmel
I repeat my comment here: Buying electricity from the mainland will be another way to give away Hong Kong's GDP and local job opportunities. Bringing in competition was said to be good for Hong Kong but nobody can really provide convincing arguments and figures to support such claim. All we know is that the Southern Grid is a monopoly in China in the South (along with the National State Grid in the North). Perhaps we should instead ask the HK government to help CLP and HKE to set foot in the mainland electricity market to break up the monopoly there notorious for massive corruption, unfair business practices, and in the name of development destroying thousands miles of beautiful Guangdong coastal lines. In the last decade, the Guangdong province has built and prepared to build so many coal-fire and nuclear power plants that they are more than happy to export surplus to HK to save their investments. It will be too sad to see Hong Kong to give up her own energy autonomy, her GPD, her jobs and live on the mercy of a colossal and corrupted monopoly from across the border.
pangkf
I really want to voice out. I don't trust China as they are still very unreliable and uncertain. Our HKSAR government only please and flatter China. How our government do so bad although it is not easy to do well under this kind of sovereignty.
rpasea
Aren't all public consultations frauds with govt. having previously decided on who wins the spoils of their decisions?
dunndavid
So what are being asked to do is displace 30% of Hong Kong electricity supply from 1st world class, private companies supplied competitively by the best equipment and service suppliers in the world and have that replaced by 3rd world class SOEs supplied by some of the most corrupt and incompetent crony capitalist suppliers in the world. And this is supposed to be a good thing?
johnyuan
To dun...
.
Unfortunately there is no competing market in electricity supply despite we have two sources. The market is divided geographically and it is not known people or company moves within Hong Kong because there is a cheaper rate to be had. A cheaper rate usually could be possible from a provider when electricity is used during the off peak hours.
XYZ
Diversity of supply to keep prices under control and suppliers on their toes makes a certain amount of sense.
.
However, Hong Kong should avoid over-reliance on mainland electricity supply for both technical and political reasons.
.
Regulators who had Hong Kong's interests foremost in their minds, rather than pleasing their CCP gang masters, should have no difficulty in arriving at a sensible decision on this matter.
.
One added thought. What possible good can arise from asking taxi drivers and retail sales clerks for their views on the technically complex and highly political question of long-term power supply policies? The so-called consultation is a farce and a joke obviously designed to serve a wholly different purpose.
r6b
" rather than pleasing their CCP gang masters"
I sometimes wonder who our bureaucrats are listening to. Are they truly Beijing top officials that really matter, or are they perhaps aspiring wanabee's who are trying to make themselves noticed to their superiors at HK's expense.
This type of intimidation goes on all the time in large private companies, and managers need to understand who matters, and who doesn't in order to succeed within a large corporation.
XYZ
Forget about the messenger. The message is clear: Li Xiaolin, CEO of China Power International Development and daughter of former Premier Li Peng, wants her 30% cut of the HK electricity market. Any questions? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?
r6b
We have 2 electric utilities that both offer superb reliability and have done so for over 3 decades. When was the last time any one in HK suffered from a power failure caused by either utility ? Compare this to US/Canada, with an average of 3 major failures per year. Last year in Toronto, some customers were without power for more than one week in winter.
By comparison, the level of electrical supply/distribution expertise within government is so low, is cannot even be measured.
Allowing incompetent bureaucrats to meddle, is akin to the asylum being run by its patients.

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