CLP Holdings, which owns the larger of Hong Kong’s two power utilities, will spend around HK$2 billion (US$256 million) to install smart electricity meters for 2.3 million customers in the city over the next seven years, which will help save on costs and plant investment, according to the company’s chief executive officer Richard Lancaster. The meters, together with a mobile app, are part of the 118 year-old utility’s drive to harness technology to enhance efficiency and customer services. The meters will be a tool for cutting bills and carbon footprint through a change in consumer habits. “Many of our larger commercial customers already have them installed,” Lancaster told reporters visiting the company’s SmartHub centre in Kowloon showcasing concepts on data-enabled energy generation, distribution and consumption. “It will enable greener usage of electricity and allow us to pass on savings to customers,” he said. Lancaster said the devices will allow the company to avoid having to build around 300 megawatts of generation capacity to meet rising demand, based on estimates using data from pilot installations. The savings amount to roughly 4 per cent of its total generating capacity of 7,533MW in operation and under construction. The company is building a 550MW natural gas-fired unit at an estimated cost of HK$5.5 billion. In addition to providing real time consumption data, the meters will also help phase out manual meter data recording. They will also provide instant reports on power outages so as to coordinate timely emergency infrastructure repairs. “We do not expect big [labour] savings from meter reading as the costs are not big to begin with since most people live in high rise buildings,” Lancaster said. “The bigger benefit lies in it being a tool to help make our power grid more reliable and help us monitor and manage electricity demand.” To tap into business opportunities from new technology, CLP is in the process of re-branding and re-organising its services subsidiary CLP Engineering. Under the rebranded entity CLPe Solutions, a separate profit centre with some 150 staff, it will build up its capabilities in the next three years and pursue opportunities related to energy management, Lancaster said. “For example, the biggest operating cost of data centres is electricity, so there is a big incentive for them to work with us to mange their energy needs,” he said. “Hotels and restaurants also have substantial power bills.” CLPe is working with customers on energy distribution and management projects at the Hong Kong Science and Technology Park, the West Kowloon Cultural District and the Hong Kong International Airport. It will also bid for contracts to serve the needs of the 1,700 customers – mostly low-rise village houses – that have applied to erect roof-top solar panels and sell excess output to CLP’s grid system. Meanwhile, CLP is working with energy-related technology start-ups to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. Lancaster said the company had spent “tens of millions of US dollars” on a handful of start-ups, including Hong Kong-based lighting solutions developer En-trak and Silicon Valley-based energy management software developer Autogrid. CLP is exploring opportunities outside Hong Kong in the form of solar farms in mainland China and India, where industry consolidation is expected, Lancaster said. In mainland China, uncertainties on the way new projects will be awarded and regulated has seen CLP has adopted a cautious approach, he said.