As the city ponders drawing a third of its electricity from the mainland power grid, it also plans to disassociate itself from the resulting carbon emissions, environmental authorities say.
Carbon emissions related to the imported electricity would be left out of the city's emissions count, the Environmental Protection Department said yesterday. It is unclear if that is common practice when transferring energy across borders.
The shift of responsibility should help the city achieve runaway success in its carbon reduction targets, set at 50 to 60 per cent below the 2005 emissions level. Frances Yeung Hoi-shan, from Friends of the Earth, said environmental officials were "playing tricks" in seeking to meet the targets.
Dr Luk Bing-lam, chairman of the Nuclear Society and a member of the Environment Bureau's energy advisory committee, added: "This is self-defeating. The whole thing is about reducing emissions, but it turns out that the emissions will be 'shifted' to the mainland."
All the electricity the city now gets from across the border is nuclear energy.
Under fuel-mix proposals for 2023, mainland company China Southern Power Grid may export up to 15 billion kilowatt-hours a year to Hong Kong - an option that Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing has claimed can help the city outperform its targets.
That same amount of energy can be generated locally by coal- or gas-fired plants, but Wong said the city would then be able to meet only basic benchmarks.
The fuel mix of China Southern is one-third hydro power, 6 per cent nuclear energy and more than 60 per cent coal and natural gas.
Clean Air Network chief executive Kwong Sum-yin said sourcing more energy from the firm's Guangdong plant was not necessarily a greener way, as more than half of its supply came from coal. Kwong feared greater energy demands imposed on the province would in turn spawn more coal-fired plants.
Luk urged the government to clarify why it believed nuclear energy was a costly option.
World Green Organisation chief executive Dr William Yu Yuen-ping said that if the city decided to obtain electricity substantially from the mainland, it should pay attention to storing enough back-up power in case the supply was disrupted.