Power companies should charge more for commercial customers who frequently use large amounts of electricity at peak times, according to a paper on ways to improve air quality. This would allow more efficient use of energy and remove the need for new power stations and related transmission lines, according to the draft consultation paper. The Council for Sustainable Development paper, some details of which were reported in this week's Sunday Morning Post, says the government and the power companies should implement measures that encourage the public to reduce energy consumption. 'Power companies build stations to cater for the peak of electricity demand. If we can lower the electricity demand in peak hours and shift the demand to off-peak hours, fewer stations will be built in the long run,' said a member of the support group that prepared the paper. This could be done by raising charges for commercial consumers whose electricity demand was often high in peak hours, to encourage consumers with a more flexible business style to operate in non-peak hours, said the member, who did not want to be named. CLP Power currently offers cheaper off-peak electricity, but the paper said more should be done to encourage consumers to carry out energy planning. The group also urged the government to promote green buildings by setting up a comprehensive green labelling system for buildings with superior energy performance. Households and firms are also encouraged to find innovative ways to save energy. Patrick Lau Sau-shing, lawmaker for the planning sector, said he would propose a motion urging the government to improve town planning and building designs, at a Legislative Council meeting on May 23. The motion first urges the government to set a good example by designing buildings that are environmentally friendly, such as by using materials which save energy, and applying renewable energy. Secondly, the government should establish a voluntary green labelling scheme to encourage developers to adopt a holistic approach to building design. The paper also suggested the government use road pricing, with differential pricing based on vehicles' emissions. This is aimed at encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly cars by forcing older cars and those which emit more pollutants to pay a higher fee to enter congested zones. The public consultation will last for three months. Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, of the Hong Kong Automobile Association, said that while he opposed any road pricing scheme if it was purely to generate revenue, he supported introducing road pricing with 'green' elements and differential pricing. But he said it must be done in such a way that drivers of cars that were not environmentally-friendly were not penalised, providing their vehicles meet emission standards. 'Environment-friendly cars are not necessarily cleaner if they are poorly maintained, whereas old cars can have good emission performance too,' Mr Lee said. In 2001 the Transport Department put off pursuing electronic road pricing on environmental and transport grounds following the completion of a four-year study costing HK$75 million. Sources from the council's support group said the consultation paper suggested congestion charging might apply in areas such as Central, Causeway Bay, Wan Chai, Mong Kok and Tsim Sha Tsui. It left open for public discussion whether buses, light buses and taxis operating in those areas should be charged for entering them.