Letters to the Editor, June 19, 2015

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 June, 2015, 5:29pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 June, 2015, 5:29pm

We need to catch up in energy change

On Tuesday, the government will host a public consultation on the future of electricity markets in Hong Kong.

While much work has been done by the government and our local power companies to prepare alternatives for the public to consider during this consultation, Hong Kong is getting left behind by the rapid pace of technology change.

Energy efficiency, demand response, energy storage, and distributed renewable energy technologies already offer reliable, resilient, and zero carbon electricity solutions at lower costs than conventional electricity generation and distribution in many parts of the world.

These resources are sometimes collectively referred to as preferred resources. Over the last year, more than one gigawatt of preferred resources (equivalent to more than 10 per cent of Hong Kong's 2013 maximum electricity demand of 9.1GW), has been procured in a very public bidding process in southern California.

Bidding is very competitive, and long-term contracts are being awarded by two independent investor-owned utilities, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The Hong Kong government needs to accelerate its work to create an open market for our power companies, whenever feasible, to procure preferred resources as part of our future fuel mix.

I urge the government to carefully and immediately study precedents in California and other overseas areas, and ensure that an open market for procurement of cost-effective new energy solutions is in place in Hong Kong as soon as possible.

Such a government policy could also set precedents for mainland China that would give Hong Kong-based utilities a better opportunity to be seen as practical innovators on the mainland as well as in other neighbouring countries, and better ensure these companies' financial fortunes in the future.

Christopher Hazen, Mid-Levels

Nuclear power makes sense for city, world

When combustion fuels are used up one day, I believe nuclear energy will be the ideal source of energy for Hong Kong.

First and foremost, it is a clean form of energy that does not contain any pollutants or the greenhouse gases that lead to global warming.

The worst of Hong Kong's air pollution comes from our heavy traffic and power stations using fossil fuels. With nuclear energy dominating, power plant emissions will be reduced, and we will have an improvement in air quality.

As fossil fuels will run out before the raw materials needed for nuclear energy, it makes sense to see nuclear energy as a long-term option. And this is a sensible choice, not just in Hong Kong, but globally.

The Daya Bay nuclear plant which provides electricity to Hong Kong does so at a cheap and stable market price.

However, critics point to some problems, such as pollution if nuclear waste is not properly handled.

In other words, it is a clean form of energy only when a power station is operated properly.

Of course, there is also renewable energy, but often it needs a lot of space, for the different kinds of installations, and this can limit its potential in places such as Hong Kong with its tall buildings and mountains.

Flat land is needed to install a lot of solar panels and a hydroelectric power plant would not be feasible, either.

Also, the amount of energy provided by wind turbines would be variable, entirely dependent on how much wind there was.

Again, critics talk about the safety issue with reference to the tsunami in Japan and the Fukushima power plant; however, because of its location, Hong Kong is not prone to these natural disasters.

Nonetheless, the government does have a contingency plan in place, including evacuation routes, if there is an emergency at Daya Bay.

Nuclear energy remains the best long-term energy source to provide a reliable supply of electricity to Hong Kong.

Poon Wing-man, Kowloon Tong

Typhoons can now give us electricity

We are approaching the typhoon season, and while these storms can cause a lot of damage, there is a positive side to them. Hong Kong does not have many renewable energy resources, and any initiatives are costly to implement.

However, many buildings have now installed solar panels and wind turbines, showing greater environmental consciousness in the city.

And we need to recognise the enormous potential of typhoons and tropical storms to provide Hong Kong with a renewable energy source.

Until now, there was no system to convert the wind from typhoons into electricity.

For mechanical reasons, nothing was strong enough.

Today after years of research, we have a solution based on what is known as micro-turbine technology. Micro-turbines can generate renewable energy at a low cost.

This offers a green solution that definitely beats burning coal in a power station.

Lucien Gambarota, Fanling

After-school care can helpparents work

I would support any government initiative to ensure comprehensive after-school care to children to let more parents return to the workforce.

It would be good for the economy overall, but there could be some problems.

People who do not have the right skills and experience might have difficulty finding a job.

Many teenagers do struggle, even those who have university degrees. So, for that matter, do some parents, who left the workforce many years ago.

But it's not impossible to get employment. People will just need time to familiarise themselves with their new work environment.

True, ensuring comprehensive after-schools care would also be costly. The children would need professionals to look after them - in a mentorship programme, for example - and schools would have to stay open later.

In addition, I would suggest that the government offers subsidies to companies to set up schemes in which they hire people who would be able to work from home.

These schemes would enable parents to spend more time with their children and still earn an income.

Any schemes like this and comprehensive after-school care would require careful planning by the government before being implemented, but doing so would definitely be worth it.

Hung Cheuk-yin, Yau Tong

Same winners as minimum wage rises

Correspondents have written to these columns to say low-income families will be better off, thanks to the increase in May in the statutory hour minimum wage. My reply would be: "Sure, ask them about it."

As soon as the minimum wage was introduced, prices went up.

The attitude of employers was: "Do I need to pay my workers more? Perfect, I will make money somewhere else."

Prices went up a lot more than the increases in hourly pay. So before the minimum wage was raised, the poor could get more for their dollar than afterwards. But, of course, our government felt it needed to do something.

Another example of this is introducing measures to cool the property market. Another great job, thank you.

The second-hand market slowed down, and who gained? Of course, it was the government's friends, the developers.

They said, "Buy our newly-built homes, and we will provide finance of up to 90 per cent".

John Pesci, Sheung Wan

New hourly pay rate lifts standards

I believe the increased minimum wage will boost the economy and improve living standards.

People may be reluctant to work if the pay is so low that it is costlier to go out to work than to stay at home and claim benefits.

I think, with the new minimum wage rate, we will see fewer people registered as unemployed.

With the cost of living being high in this sophisticated city, it is difficult for low-income groups to have enough to pay for even daily necessities.

With property prices being so high here, people spend at least half their income or more on rent.

Things will be easier with a rate of HK$32.50. People from these groups now have more purchasing power. Obviously this has a positive knock-on effect for the economy.

Li Xiao-ting, Cheung Sha Wan 

It all comes down to retail relevance

For the retail sector to be successful, it must mirror society and be relevant to its time and place.

If Hong Kong's retail sector does not wake up to this reality, the future of retail here will be bleak.

Luxury malls, stores and other retailers that fail to offer what society and the consumer want will become irrelevant.

Terry Waterhouse, director, RedGoodss Ltd