Public demands more information about energy plans from government

Environment secretary tells people to look to the future rather than worrying about unreliability of mainland power grid in the past

PUBLISHED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 4:39pm
UPDATED : Monday, 12 May, 2014, 4:41pm

The Environment Bureau is under pressure to provide more information about its two controversial proposals for the city’s future energy mix, after energy experts and the public complained of not being able to make an informed decision.

At a meeting of the Legislative Council’s economic development panel on Monday, a total of 27 energy experts, political party members and concerned residents delivered their views on the bureau’s plans, but almost all said they needed more facts before they could draw conclusions.

Under the first proposal, up to 30 per cent of the city’s power would be provided by the China Southern Power Grid by 2023.

The alternative plan would see the proportion of energy generated locally from natural gas tripled to 60 per cent in order to meet growing electricity demand. Both plans are undergoing public consultation until mid-June.

Critics of the import option have questioned how reliable the supply would be and what impact it would have environmentally. The local generation option might expose Hongkongers to international fluctuations in the price of gas, leading to raised tariffs, others have argued.

Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing told the hearing that the public should not be overly worried about connecting with the mainland grid, saying grid-to-grid connections were common and had proved to be reliable in other parts of the world.

While he vowed to be open about the two options, Wong called on the community to consider how reliable the mainland grid would be “in the future” and not to focus on its unreliability in the past.

“There were power shortages across the border in the past but that was the past. For us, we are looking at 10 years from now and beyond – to the future. The southern grid has been improving in terms of power supply and we just can’t compare the past directly with the future,” Wong said.

He said the import option would mean a more diverse range of fuel sources and flexibility in meeting demand changes over time.

But many taking part in the hearing disagreed with Wong.

Chan Fuk-cheung, a veteran engineer representing the Association of Hong Kong Professionals, said he wanted the bureau to provide estimates of cost and reliability.

William Yu Yuen-ping, chief executive of World Green Organisation, said the consultation document did not put forward convincing evidence of the reliability of the mainland’s power supply. Doubts remained over whether there would be enough supply to Hong Kong during the mainland’s peak electricity demand, he said.

Yu warned that lack of information, especially about pricing, might cause Hongkongers to make a decision they will regret in the future.

Richard Tsoi Yiu-cheong, of the Democratic Party, described the document as unclear in “principles, content and direction”. “We have serious reservation on the import option, as we don’t know how we can control the fuel sources and we are not sure if it is more expensive or cheaper [than the alternative],” he said.

He also said the local-generation option could only be considered if the government could slash the profits of the power firms by changing regulations.