The Legislative Council yesterday passed a law to make voluntary building energy codes mandatory.
The codes will apply to all new commercial buildings and to public areas of new residential and industrial buildings, as well as existing ones undergoing major renovation.
They cover the energy efficiency of air conditioning, lifts and escalators, lighting and electrical installations in communal areas, but they will not regulate external lighting.
The proposal to include outdoor lights mounted on a building, tabled by Civic Party leader Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, was voted down because of strong opposition from the trade-based seats. Eu, in debating her amendment, said it was ridiculous to require only indoor lights to be energy-saving but exempt outdoor ones.
'I'm not saying that no billboards and flashlights should be hung on the walls of buildings; I'm only asking that they come with energy-saving devices. Such strong lights waste electricity, not to speak of hurting our eyes ... the government is requiring ordinary citizens to save energy but it will allow businesses to keep turning on all those lights outside. It is not doing its job right,' Eu said.
Kam Nai-wai's and Cyd Ho Sau-lan's amendments to regulate lights used solely for decoration were also voted down. Kam said exempting decorative lights would create grey areas, as it was not always easy to determine which lights were simply for decoration and which were not.
Secretary for Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said he would not accept the amendments, as there were no international standards on controlling the brightness and electricity consumption of external lights.
'Also, we have not yet consulted the trades on such a proposal and have not assessed the impact on businesses. It is not appropriate to introduce the regulation at this stage,' Yau said, adding the Environment Bureau would discuss light pollution in Legco early next year.
With the law passed, the bureau will work on subsidiary legislation for technical arrangements including a registration system for engineers to assess energy.
Developers or building owners will be required to hire engineers to submit declarations to the government that they comply with the codes, after which they would be issued certificates of compliance.
Those who breach the energy codes or fail to carry out regular energy audits will face a penalty of HK$500,000 to HK$1 million. The codes will not apply to tenants.
The law was based on an unsatisfactory response to a voluntary building code introduced in 1998. Up to last year, the code covers just 1,061 buildings, of which 72 per cent are government premises.
Officials said extending the codes to all buildings was not practical, as many old buildings had space or design constraints preventing installations from being upgraded. Buildings account for about 89 per cent of the city's energy consumption.