Hongkong Electric has failed by a big margin to reach an annual energy savings target set four years ago in its agreement with the government, bringing calls by a green group for penalties.
The firm, supplier to Hong Kong and Lamma islands, helped its users cut a total of 1.7 million kilowatt-hours in the three years from 2009 to 2011 - far less than the 3 million kWh a year specified in its scheme of control signed in 2008.
It said the failure was due to factors beyond its control.
Across the harbour, CLP Power, which supplies the New Territories and Kowloon, met its annual target of 12 million kWh.
Friends of the Earth wants Hongkong Electric penalised and said it was also time for the government to set serious energy conservation targets.
"Does the firm even know how to spell the word shame?" asked Frances Yeung Hoi-shan, the green group's senior environmental affairs manager.
"We successfully mobilised the public to save 52 million kWh in three months in our Power Smart contest while Hongkong Electric has failed to save as little as 3 million kWh."
Under the revised Scheme of Control endorsed in 2008, the two power firms are awarded a bonus 0.02 of a percentage point return on their net fixed assets, on top of the 9.99 per cent permitted, if they achieve the reductions and conduct 50 energy audits for selected users. Hongkong Electric achieved only the audit target while CLP met both.
Hongkong Electric said it had held 200 audits for commercial and industrial customers but it did not necessarily follow that the company would adopt the recommended energy-saving measures immediately.
"Customers' decisions as to whether or not to take on the recommended measures are beyond our control and subject to [their] views on the condition and cost-effectiveness of their electrical installations," a spokesman said.
Yeung said the energy conservation targets constituted a meagre 0.03 and 0.04 per cent of the two firms' respective annual sales respectively. "The government must take the opportunity in the interim review of the Scheme of Control next year to formulate more aggressive energy-saving targets, and introduce a carrot-and-stick approach," she said.
Yeung said energy conservation would help suppress the pressure for tariff increases.
Hongkong Electric will raise charges by an average 2.9 per cent and CLP by an average of 5.9 per cent today.