Hong Kong energy use per household down since 2000, but hotels and schools could be pushing up total use

Adjusted figures from turn of millennium to 2013 show green campaigns could be having effect on city residents

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 6:55pm
UPDATED : Monday, 14 November, 2016, 6:57pm

Hongkongers used three per cent less electricity in 2013 than in 2000, adjusted for population changes, climate and economic growth, a new study has claimed.

But the commercial sector used 10 per cent more over the same period, possibly driven by large energy-intensive users like data centres, hotels and university campuses.

The energy efficiency index, devised by the World Green Organisation and Synergy Group in conjunction with energy modelling expert Dr William Chung Siu-wai of City University's school of management science, analysed government end-use data.

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It effectively isolates pre-determined factors such as an increase in household numbers or commercial floor area and weather effects. It is aimed at helping gauge the effectiveness of energy efficiency policies and technology.

According to the analysis, the energy intensity of residential users – energy use divided by the number of households – dropped by 1,528 terrajoules, or 3 per cent. That is despite total energy use increasing 21 per cent from 49,066TJ to 59,458TJ in the 13-year period, a figure in line with the 24 per cent increase in Hong Kong households.

"This is the first report of its kind to show such a finding. I was really quite surprised by it," said Dr William Yu Yuen-ping, CEO of the World Green Organisation, a group focusing on environmental policy.

"Could it mean residential users are using energy more efficiently? Could it indicate campaigning by green groups is succeeding?"

While commercial energy use rose during the period covered, the bulk of the commercial sector lowered its energy use, particularly in offices, shops and restaurants.

The sector’s overall energy use was up 10 per cent since 2000.

Yu said parts of the commercial sector not cited specifically in official statistics, but contributing to the rise, could include big institutional users such as hotels, schools or universities, hospitals, warehouses and railway stations.

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He believed a major driver of commercial electricity use may have been the rise in data centres since 2000, fuelled by the development of mobile and wireless technology requiring more processing capacity.

The MTR network’s growth may also contribute, and the change from three- to four-year undergraduate university courses may have increased the use and frequency of daily classroom uses, he said.

"The government should be providing more specific breakdowns of their statistics to increase transparency and identify which areas should step up [energy efficiency] measures," he said, adding that the correlation between energy use and growth in population and GDP had ended around 2008.